Author of Middle Grade novels about friendship, family, and figuring out where you fit in.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Middle Grade of the Past #3: Have You Seen Hyacinth Macaw?

Here's the third post in my series called Middle Grade of the Past, where I review a children's book from anytime between 1950 and 1985.

Today's Middle Grade of the Past #3 is: Have You Seen Hyacinth Macaw? by Patricia Reilly Giff, published in 1981.

Here's the cover of the copy I have:


Back Cover Summary:

With a memo book full of notes, junior detective Abby Jones and her pal Potsie piece together confusing clues and soon they are trying to unravel more than one mystery.

Squeezing through windows, sneaking onto subways, and slithering into an empty apartment during the night, Abby must make sense of the puzzling information that she is piling up. She is hot on the trail, but can she solve the case?


Now, full disclosure: This book was one of my absolute favorites as a kid. But reading it as an adult was much different. Here are my thoughts:

The Good: I might be biased because of how much younger me loved this book, but in my opinion, Abby Jones is a fun and likable character right from the beginning. She has a “memo pad” like the detectives in her city do, and she writes notes to herself that are just so charming. Though as much as I like Abby, her scaredy-cat best friend, Potsie, has always been my favorite.

The Old: I noticed that anything that had a price was less expensive than it would be today. Example: one of the characters broke a large stained glass window that was worth fifty dollars, which sounds kind of inexpensive for stained glass. Also, this book brings me back to before there were cell phones, which wasn’t that long ago. As expected, there’s only one telephone per household, its bill is expensive, and the kids are told not to hog the line in case someone tries to call.

The Funny: The dialogue between Abby and Potsie is cute and kind of snarky most of the time. Abby can be a bit bossy, but they had a fun dynamic. Potsie is sometimes a little, well, dumb, and I got a kick out of the fact that she calls other people “Dumb. D-U-M,” which tells you a bit about her dopey character. All of the characters had something amusing or humorous about them, even if they felt a little bit like caricatures at times.

Overall: While I loved this book more as a kid than an adult (I really wanted to become a detective after reading this), I still really enjoyed it, maybe more for nostalgic reasons. I remembered how the mystery was solved, though, so maybe I would have enjoyed it even more if I’d forgotten the story. I think some kids today would have fun solving the mystery, like I did many years ago.

Was there a book you read or a movie you watched that really had an impact on you as a kid? I didn't end up becoming a detective, but man, I really wanted to be one when I was younger. Reading this book brought all of that back!

7 comments:

Faith E. Hough said...

Oh, I'm going to have to find this for my daughter--she's really into detectives right now. And she doesn't have a cell phone, anyway, so maybe there won't be too much culture shock of going back in time. :)

Jemi Fraser said...

I've always loved mysteries! From Encyclopedia Brown, on to Nancy & the Boys, to Agatha Christie & more! It's so much fun trying to solve the mystery - even though i'm mostly wrong :)

Heather R. Holden said...

Don't think I've heard of this one before. Sounds like a fun book! (The D-U-M part is especially amusing, LOL.)

Crystal Collier said...

How sweet! There's nothing like a nostalgic old read. It's been fun picking up a couple of those to share with my kids.

Medeia Sharif said...

I've sometimes reread a book to find that my strong feelings for it waned. I do like flashbacks to the past. I'd pick up one of these older chapter books for the nostalgia.

Peaches D. Ledwidge said...

As a kid, I was never into dectective books. Somehow, I just thought they were for boys - "gendered thoughts."

We change so much as we grow older - it is evident in what we like now and then. Thanks for sharing.

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