Young readers will be delighted to see another mystery from the team of Trisha and Stephen Shaskan. Q (Quillan Lu Hedgehog) and Ray (Ray Ratzberg) team up to solve yet another baffling mystery at Elm Tree Elementary.
The story opens with the two friends sharing their newly acquired interests; Q is practicing her deductions and Ray is excited to learn more about meteorites at the school field trip. Their interests are encouraged by the school media specialist, Mr. Shrew. They have a great time at the presentation with Frank Ferret from the Elm Tree Science Center, and learn a lot about meteorites. Ray is even more excited when they arrive at the science center and he sees one of his heroes, Dr. Neal D. Grass Bison. But when the time comes to see the center’s prize exhibit, a real meteorite, the class (and Dr. Bison) is stunned to realize it’s a fake! Between Q’s deductive skills and Ray’s knowledge of meteorites can they track down the thief?
Even with a cast of animal characters, Shaskan still manages to give an impression of diversity; Ray and Dr. Bison both sport dark skin and tightly curled hair, while the rest of the students have a range of skin and hair colors, sometimes, but not always, matching up with their animal identity. Despite the sometimes busy layout of multiple small panels and speech bubbles, the larger size of the book and the minimalist art style keep it simple for beginning readers, making it easy to follow the clues and action. Bold backgrounds make flashbacks and separate stories, like the discovery of the meteorite, stand out from the rest of the story. The bulk of the panels are set against pale green or cream colors, which keeps the focus on the characters rather than the backgrounds. Q’s questioning personality continues to be spotlighted and her quirky dress sense—yellow suit and purple bow tie— fit the cheerfully wacky theme of most of the characters. Ray’s eyes are heavily magnified behind his glasses and this adds a little to the nerd stereotype. But the warmth and acceptance of both his friends and the school at large show him fitting just fine into a community that encourages discovery, unique characters, and Q and Ray’s sleuthing abilities.
These mysteries are just right for beginning readers. They feature diverse characters with wide interests, a supportive adult community, and include nonfiction elements as well. This title blends most of the information about deduction and meteorites into the story, but there is a brief author’s note at the end with some additional facts. Young readers will enjoy following along with the clues and may get interested in a little investigative work of their own after finishing the story.
Q& Ray, vol. 2: Meteorite or Meteor-wrong?
by Trisha Speed Shaskan
Art by Stephen Shaskan
Lerner Graphic Universe, 2018
Publisher Age Rating: 7-11