Reviews for Great Cake Mystery : Precious Ramotswe's Very First Case

Booklist Reviews 2012 January #1
Adult fans of Smith's No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series will be queuing up to give this prequel of sorts to the children they know. This series starter introduces the author's heroine, Precious Ramotswe, as a young girl solving her first case. Someone has been stealing treats from her friends at school, and suspicion swirls around a chubby boy named Poloko. Encouraged by her father, who has noted Precious' powers of deduction, the sleuth decides to follow her instincts and prove Poloko innocent. The story is simply told--Smith has previous experience with children's books with the Akimbo series--and it will work well for children new to the mystery genre. Adding to the appeal are McIntosh's wonderful graphic illustrations done in red and black. A map of Botswana and drawings of the flora, fauna, and settings mentioned in the text will give readers a clear picture of Precious' world. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Parents who devour the No. 1 Ladies' Dectective Agency books will likely foist this upon plenty of agreeable young readers. Those were international bestsellers; this could well have the same future. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2012 Fall
This early chapter book features a young Precious Ramotswe, star of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series for adults. The mystery Precious solves--who is behind the thefts on the school playground?--is audience-appropriate; the prose style is welcoming; the Botswana village setting is evoked clearly. The page design is generous and inviting, with wide margins and plentiful spot illustrations.

Kirkus Reviews 2012 February #1
How did Precious Ramotswe, the detective in the bestselling The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, get her start? McCall Smith has penned the story of Precious' very first case, taken on when she was just a schoolgirl. Someone has been stealing bread and sweets from the children's lunches and one round boy, Poloko, is accused of the crime. Precious has a knack for people, and she trusts Poloko's story, even when his sticky fingers point to guilt. Filling his story with fully realized secondary characters and a sumptuous Botswanan setting, McCall Smith creates the same warm community in this series that his adult readers appreciate. Readers see Precious' understanding of human nature and powers of observation. The stunning artwork in this chapter book has the look of woodcuts and old-time three-color separation illustration. It extends the story, immersing readers in the village life of Botswana. When a new character is introduced, McIntosh explores either the actual name or its pronunciation in bold red capital letters. A compelling plot and interesting secondary characters, especially classmates who are quick to make unfounded accusations and their teacher, who provides wisdom just when it is needed, will leave readers wanting more. One case where an adaptation from an adult book is as much fun to read as the original. (Mystery. 7-12) Copyright Kirkus 2012 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2012 February #4

This lovely, warmhearted novel reveals how Precious Ramotswe, the star of Smith's the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series for adults, launched her sleuthing career. Curious and observant, Precious, "one of the nicest girls in Botswana," is a natural detective. She finds her first case at school, when a piece of cake, a slice of jam-slathered bread, and some iced buns disappear. Smith laces his narrative with drily contemplative musings ("You can lose a plain piece of bread and not think twice about it, but when you lose one spread thickly with strawberry jam it's an altogether more serious matter") as well as direct addresses to readers that tap into childhood dreams of being a detective. When classmates accuse a "rather round" student of the thefts and he denies it, Precious believes him and hunts for the real culprit. Throughout, Smith shares wise insights on human nature through his compassionate and fair-minded protagonist. Bold and striking, McIntosh's chunky, two-color woodcutlike pictures present evocative images of the African setting. This is a story, and a heroine, with impressive dimension. Ages 7-10. Agent: Robin Straus, Robin Straus Agency. (Apr.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2012 March

Gr 1-3--Young readers are introduced to Precious Ramotswe, a young sleuth in Botswana, in this prequel to the adult series "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" (Pantheon). Trouble occurs when tasty treats disappear in her school. When word gets out, Precious is on the case. Observant readers will find the biggest clue to solving the mystery on the front cover. Primitive in nature and using only red, brown, and black on cream paper, the illustrations are minimal and the characters appear to be adults rather than children. The story is predictable and unlikely to have beginning chapter book readers awaiting Precious's next case.--Janene Corbin, Rosebank Elementary School, Nashville, TN

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