This is the second in Alexander McCall Smith’s circus series for younger readers, and it matches the sparkle of the first, with family fun, high wire excitement, and a delightful dose of mystery.
Billy, Fern and Joe Shortbread are circus children whose lives as performers are bound to be the envy of readers, especially when their training commitments still leave free time to dabble in their other favourite occupation – as a trio of detectives.
Nobody is laughing when an intruder sabotages the circus clowns’ custard pies – casting a shadow over the normally happy circus. The children are determined to find out how and why the recipe is being changed, and their tenacity in picking up clues that adults disregard, leads them to an unexpected discovery.
This is a lovely, gentle story, and Sam Usher’s plentiful and detailed illustrations are integral to its appeal – we especially liked the one of the clown’s storage caravan.
The Shortbread children are great role models; kind, clever and determined to develop their skills. A visit to their world of squirty flowers, night watches and West Highland terriers dressed as firemen, is an antidote to everyday life that young readers are bound to relish.