This is the fourth book in the Agent Amelia series following the case files of secret agent Amelia Kidd as she saves the world from evil geniuses and criminal masterminds. The book contains three short stories featuring an eccentric ballet teacher, a phantom picnicker and a power-crazed librarian.
Short stories have to work really hard to engage the reader, and the undeveloped characters and repetitive plot structure of the three Spooky Ballet! case files do little to make these stories an exciting read. In an attempt to give the book a fair chance I enlisted the help of two 8-year-old girls. They are both keen readers and were immediately attracted by the cover design, which shows a trendy looking girl dressed in combat trousers and pink trainers, but their interest quickly waned. Although they found the book easy to read, it was not always easy to understand – and they soon got bored. One of the main problems was that they found it hard to grasp many of the jokes, which meant that much of the humour was lost.
The book’s one redeeming feature is the illustration. The black and white sketches did help to engage my young readers enough to persevere with the first story. The pictures also aided their understanding of some of the more difficult descriptions. Using similes as a descriptive tool only works if the comparisons are familiar – for example, a reference to a cane that ‘jabbed at the floor like a sewing-machine needle’ completely failed to make its point.
This book will undoubtedly appeal to existing Agent Amelia fans in this age group, but the humour is probably better suited to Year 5 and above.