Detecting and exploring Mercer Mayer is always a favorite among preschoolers, and his Little Monster Private Eye Detective Kit (ages 3-6) is a bonus, containing not only two books full of comic intrigue, but sunglasses, a magnifying glass, and a notepad. Move over Sherlock, because Little Monster Private Eye and his assistant, Detective Kerploppus, have two tough cases to crack. In The Lost Wish, young Larry has lost his lucky green coin, so the gumshoes hop into their Private Eye Mobile to retrace Larry's steps. In The Smelly Mystery, the detecting duo must stop the Evil Smell Switcher, who is wreaking havoc in Monsterville by making fish smell like candy, flowers smell like fish, and chicken smell like soap. Rest assured that Little Monster gets to the bottom of both dilemmas.

Like the Carmen Sandiego TV show and books, Explor-A-Maze (Millbrook Press, $8.95, 0761302875) written by Robert Sneddon, skillfully combines learning, adventure and entertainment for middle graders. The book discusses 11 explorers ranging from Leif Eriksson and Lewis and Clark to astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, presenting for each a maze, a brief introduction, a map, and a timetable. A nice touch is the one-page bibliography at the end, encouraging readers to find out more about these famous explorers. My only criticism is that the maze solutions are included up front with each map and timetable, instead of separately at the back at the book, making sneaking a peek a bit too tempting. Alice Cary reviews books from her home in Groton, Massachusetts.

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