The beginning of this small-fry detective tale explains all: "My name is Jake Gander. I'm a cop. My beat: Storyville, a fairy-tale town where endings aren't always happy. My job is to rewrite them." Of course, most preschoolers have never heard of Sam Spade and have little clue about what comprises a detective story. Nonetheless, they're likely to be amused by Jake Gander, while their parents will have a chuckle, too. Older preschoolers and young elementary students will especially delight in this fairy tale free-for-all. The saga begins in the vein of any fairy tale detective spoof worth its salt: "Once upon a time . . . 10 a.m." Jake has just sat down to read his newspaper when he gets a call alerting him to "P.


T." (Possible Wolf Trouble). Gander hightails it to 1212 Granny Lane, where he finds one Red R. Hood, and a suspiciously wolf-like Granny huddled in bed. Gander drags "Granny" down to the station for questioning. There, while consulting his extensive files, several clues alert him to the fact that this is no Granny: big ears, eyes as big as manhole covers and choppers "sharp as an aged piece of cheddar." Little Red helps Gander piece all the clues together (with the help of her "Big Book of Furry Things"), and Gander delights in sending the Big Bad Wolf to the slammer. Just when Gander thinks his day's work is finished, in pops a family of three angry bears, and Gander realizes a detective's work is never done.

McClements' tale is breezy and fun, while his humorous illustrations are all framed to resemble snapshots that a detective might use as evidence. He always draws Gander in black and white, while the rest of his world appears in color, and the wolf is particularly silly, with huge teeth and wild, round, terrified eyes. There are clever touches throughout, such as a math formula our hero devises while investigating "Granny's" eyes. It spells out "the better to see you with." Read this book along with a regular retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, and youngsters will quickly get the hang of the word "spoof." Afterwards you'll no doubt be in the mood for a little Sam Spade yourself. Tell 'em the Big Bad Wolf sent you.

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