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Review: Max Finder Mystery: Collected Casebook, Volume 1

Was your artwork stolen just before the school art show? Did a thief try to take your new stereo? Are you being blamed for scratching a friend’s new CD? Never fear, help is on the way! Max Finder and Alison Santos, the stars of OWL Magazine‘s popular graphic novel mystery series, are here to help. Using keen eyes, sharp minds, and logical thinking they’ll solve any crime that comes across their path.

Max Finder Mystery: Collected Casebook, vol. 1
Liam O’Donnell; art by Michael Cho
Ages 8-12; Grades 3-6
Owl Kids, 2006, ISBN: 978-2-89579-116-4
96 pages, $9.95

O’Donnell’s mystery series is the perfect read for kids who love Encyclopedia Brown, but also enjoy comics. In this collection, Max and Alison solve ten cases revolving around the people in their town. The cases are all four pages long, making them perfect to pick up and sample at leisure. Both boys and girls should enjoy the stories as each of the two detectives has their moment to shine, so even though the series is named for Max, it’s obvious that they are equal partners. The other kids in the town are regular participants in the mysteries, allowing readers to get to know them. Though those characters are slightly stereotypical–there’s the girly girl, the athletic boy, the nerd, the bully–they don’t always fall into the roles expected of them when it comes to the mysteries. Allowing the meeker kids to be the criminals and the bullies to be innocent is a good technique for keeping the story fresh.

Cho’s art is both realistic and cartoonish. He’s very good at making the younger characters appear the age that they are, mostly age 14 and younger, but his adults sometimes look too young to be believable. This is a small criticism, though, as he is otherwise a perfect match for a mystery series. Everything is drawn crisply and with enough eye-catching detail that clues aren’t immediately obvious. He is also very successful at making the characters distinct and he varies them ethnically just enough to make Max and Alison’s town seem like an ordinary place.

Included in with the mysteries are puzzles to solve. Some are logic problems, some memory, some word, and some are related to the case that they follow. The answers for both the mysteries and the puzzles are in the back of the book, along with follow-up information about what happens after each case is solved. Though the punishments are often more along the lines of being forgiven than of serving jail time, that is really only simplistic to adult readers. Kids will be too busy trying to solve the crimes for themselves. Pick up this collection today for a great way to get mystery readers into graphic novels and graphic novel readers into mysteries.

This review is based on a complimentary copy supplied by the publisher. All images copyright © Owl Kids.

Snow Wildsmith About Snow Wildsmith

Snow Wildsmith is a writer and former teen librarian. She has served on several committees for the American Library Association/Young Adult Library Services Association, including the 2010 Michael L. Printz Award Committee. She reviews graphic novels for Booklist, ICv2's Guide, No Flying No Tights, and Good Comics for Kids and also writes booktalks and creates recommended reading lists for Ebsco's NoveList database. Currently she is working on her first books, a nonfiction series for teens.


  1. Max Finder is NOT my hero but is cool.

  2. I really liked this book, but I found the mysteries really difficult! The solution wasn’t always obvious, as it usually is in this type of book, and it didn’t necessarily depend on knowing some obscure fact, as in Encyclopedia Brown. It was interesting to be so challenged by a kids’ book!

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