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Review: On the Case with Holmes and Watson (series)

Snow Wildsmith

Lerner’s Graphic Universe imprint moves into mysteries with their retellings of some of Sherlock Holmes’ famous cases. The books are short but decent adaptations that should pique the interest of young mystery fans, as long as they are careful readers willing to pay attention to the smallest details.

Sherlock Holmes and a Scandal in Bohemia: On the Case with Holmes and Watson, #1
Author: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; Adaptors: Murray Shaw and M.J. Cosson; Illustrator: Sophie Rohrbach
Grades 5-7; Ages 10-13
Lerner/Graphic Universe; November 2010
Hardback: ISBN 978-0-7613-6185-5, 48 pages, $26.60
Paperback: ISBN 978-0-7613-6197-8, 48 pages, $6.95

Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure at the Abbey Grange: On the Case with Holmes and Watson, #2
Author: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; Adaptors: Murray Shaw and M.J. Cosson; Illustrator: Sophie Rohrbach
Grades 5-7; Ages 10-13
Lerner/Graphic Universe; November 2010
Hardback: ISBN 978-0-7613-6189-3, 48 pages, $26.60
Paperback: ISBN 978-0-7613-6200-5, 48 pages, $6.95

Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Blue Gem: On the Case with Holmes and Watson, #3
Author: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; Adaptors: Murray Shaw and M.J. Cosson; Illustrator: Sophie Rohrbach
Grades 5-7; Ages 10-13
Lerner/Graphic Universe; November 2010
Hardback: ISBN 978-0-7613-6190-9, 48 pages, $26.60
Paperback: ISBN 978-0-7613-6202-9, 48 pages, $6.95

9780761361855fc XLarge 217x300 Review: On the Case with Holmes and Watson (series)When selecting adaptors for their Sherlock Holmes series, Lerner decided to go with Murray Shaw who wrote the Match Wits with Sherlock Holmes series in the 1990s. Both he and writer Cosson do a competent job of abridging Holmes’ adventures, though it is uncertain whether young readers will get all of the subtleties of some of the cases. For example, in Sherlock Holmes and a Scandal in Bohemia, a king contracts with Holmes and Watson to retrieve a photo of him with a popular opera singer. Older elementary school and middle school aged readers are unlikely to pick up that the relationship between the king and the singer was more than mere dating and therefore will not understand much of the urgency of the story. On the other hand, modern parents who are unaware of the original Doyle stories may raise eyebrows at Holmes’ peculiar and not necessarily court-sanctioned brand of justice. In both Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure at Abbey Grange and Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Blue Gem, the criminals are allowed to go free in the end.

The flavor of Doyle’s British voice is retained and the stories all three have a matter-of-factness that is reminiscent of Donald Sobol’s Encyclopedia Brown mysteries. Adapting the stories means that some details have been left out, so readers will need to be careful and pay close attention in order to solve the crime along with Holmes. A glossary would have been useful, though, to explain historical terms such as “watermark” and “bellpull,” which may be unfamiliar to modern kids. There is an explanation for how Holmes solved the mystery in the back of each book, but it doesn’t always explain all of the reasoning that went into each deduction. There is also a 9780761361855bc XLarge 217x300 Review: On the Case with Holmes and Watson (series)Further Reading list, a nice touch, even if it is made up of a somewhat baffling selection of books. For example, the British title of an Eva Ibbotson book is given rather than the American (and that book is for an older audience than this series is intended for any way) and there are books on the lists related to parts of the story (such as books about geese or about sailors) rather than just mysteries or detective stories, which makes their appeal seem less likely to readers drawn to this series for its mysteries.

Rohrbach’s art is a high point. Her loose, cartoony style is child-friendly, but mature enough to keep the characters from looking too young or the stories from seeming juvenile. Her colors bring the late Victorian setting to life and the sepia tones of flashbacks are a smart detail. Overall this isn’t a terrible series and mystery fans will appreciate having their genre represented in graphic format, but there is room for tweaking to make these books the best they could be.

This review is based on a complimentary copy supplied by the publisher. All images copyright © Lerner/Graphic Universe.

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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.

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