Sunday, September 20, 2015

Leon Chameleon P.I. and the Case of the Kidnapped Mouse by Jan Hurst-Nicholson

Rating: WORTHY!

Not to be confused with Leon the Chameleon by Mélanie Watt, which I haven't read, but which is evidently a young children's story about misfits and acceptance, this is a series for somewhat older children about a different chameleon coincidentally named Leon, and who is a private investigator just like his great uncle was. Jan Hurst-Nicholson is the author of Bheki and the Magic Light which I reviewed favorably back in April 2015, as I also did her young children's fiction about a left-handed girl, The Race. I also review the first book in this series on my blog.

I'm not a big fan of series, but I tried not to let that color my review of this chameleon in his second appearance...!

In episode two of Leon's adventures, a woodland mouse is kidnapped by an ill-informed human boy who thinks he can take better care of the mouse - about whom he knows nothing - than the mouse can do for himself. Wrong! This novel not only continues to wise us up to the wildlife, their habits, and behaviors, it also sets out to educate children that wild life is best left wild, and that capturing wild animals in an attempt to domesticate then or keep them as pets, is doomed to failure. Leave them in their natural habitat, and we'll always have a natural habitat to enjoy.

This story was published in the nineties, and is now re-released as an ebook complete with great original images by Barbara McGuire. The main character, Leon lives in an African forest and tries to help out various animal victims of criminal activity such as egg-napping and human abduction of forest critters. This time a woodland mouse has been abducted, and Leon and the police are in full cooperation to rescue one of their own. Using bird spies and a non-naked mole rat (this is a children's story after all!), the mislaid mouse is tracked down to a cage in a garage, but the garage is by a house across a busy highway and there's a dog on guard. Can Leon come up with a plan to save his furry brother?

In a mice, er, nice twist, an unlikely lad from the first story in this series is called into action in a rather heroic role in this story. I really liked that, but I'm not going to rat on the author and tell you which character it is. Once again, Leon's inventiveness and careful thinking save the day. As before, the best thing about his novel apart from the humor and the writing, is the delightful way the author sneaks in educational material about the animals who appear as characters, and in this particular story, sends a message to leave well alone when it comes to nature. I recommend this whole-heartedly, but I can't for the life of me figure out why Leon doesn't like tongue-twisters....

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