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The Great Cake Mystery: Precious Ramotswe's Very First Case (Precious Ramotswe Mysteries for Young Readers) Hardcover – April 3, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Adult fans of Smith’s No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series will be queuing up to give this prequel of sorts to the children they know. This series starter introduces the author’s heroine, Precious Ramotswe, as a young girl solving her first case. Someone has been stealing treats from her friends at school, and suspicion swirls around a chubby boy named Poloko. Encouraged by her father, who has noted Precious’ powers of deduction, the sleuth decides to follow her instincts and prove Poloko innocent. The story is simply told—Smith has previous experience with children’s books with the Akimbo series—and it will work well for children new to the mystery genre. Adding to the appeal are McIntosh’s wonderful graphic illustrations done in red and black. A map of Botswana and drawings of the flora, fauna, and settings mentioned in the text will give readers a clear picture of Precious’ world. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Parents who devour the No. 1 Ladies Dectective Agency books will likely foist this upon plenty of agreeable young readers. Those were international bestsellers; this could well have the same future. Grades 2-4. --Karen Cruze


“A detective is born! What a delightful, breezy read!"
     —Mary Pope Osborne, bestselling author of The Magic Tree House series

“Told with an innocence that will captivate young readers, The Great Cake Mystery is a kind-hearted, feel-good story for all. Loved it!”
     —Graham Salisbury, author of Under the Blood-Red Sun and the Calvin Coconut series
“Kids will love this kind and clever new detective. They’ll love the mystery, and they might even love the thieves. I look forward to more!”
     —Patricia Reilly Giff, award-winning author of Wild Girl and other books

“Good for kids who like mysteries and stories about other cultures and friendship all packed into one.” —TIME for Kids magazine

“Stunning artwork. . . . A compelling plot and interesting secondary characters, especially classmates who are quick to make unfounded accusations and their teacher, who provides wisdom just when it is needed, will leave readers wanting more. One case where an adaptation from an adult book is as much fun to read as the original.”
     —Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“This mini mystery and its jaw-dropping illustrations will please proto-detectives, both large and small. . . . What [McCall Smith]’s done with The Great Cake Mystery is unique. . . . His fans will pluck it up like so many of his other books. . . . A really fun read.”
     —School Library Journal

"Bold and striking, McIntosh’s chunky, two-color woodcutlike pictures present evocative images of the African setting. This is a story, and a heroine, with impressive dimension." 
      - Publishers Weekly, starred review

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 7 - 10 years
  • Grade Level: 2 - 5
  • Series: Precious Ramotswe Mysteries for Young Readers (Book 1)
  • Hardcover: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor (April 3, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307949443
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307949448
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (97 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #556,273 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Alexander McCall Smith was born in what is now Zimbabwe and taught law at the University of Botswana. He is now Professor of Medical Law at the University of Edinburgh. He has written more than fifty books, including a number of specialist titles, but is best known for The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, which has achieved bestseller status on four continents. In 2004 he was awarded British Book Awards Author of the Year and Booksellers Association Author of the Year. He lives in Scotland, where in his spare time he is a bassoonist in the RTO (Really Terrible Orchestra).

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Carol Ann on April 6, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Alexander McCall Smith's series "No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency" books are among my very favorite books. Now he's done it for young readers. Okay, so I'm not young. I don't care. I hurried to purchase this book because I am such a fan, and now I will start my grandkids on the series (only after I read it first!). Underneath the simple and entertaining plots in all McCall's books of this genre are some of life's great pieces of wisdom. And that's what calls me to a book or a series -- let there be wisdom underneath entertainment, a few good laughs and a few good cries, and I am happy. I am definitely happy now.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By KidsReads on May 29, 2012
Format: Paperback
Precious, a little girl living in Botswana, wishes to be a detective someday. One night, her dad retells a story about a lion that enters a village. She listens intently and asks lots of questions, and at the end of the story, he wants to know how she could determine whether or not he was exaggerating. Precious has a hunch that parts of the tale are fabricated and tells him so. Listening, questioning and not jumping to conclusions are all traits of a good detective, characteristics that Precious possesses. She is excited to learn that she has what it takes, but wonders when she will be able to test out her skills.
Precious' luck turns when a piece of cake goes missing from her school. Determined to locate it, she sets out to nab the culprit. She asks her friend Tapiwa many questions about where she lost the confection and when she noticed it was gone. Then the very next day, her classmate, Sepo, is missing his jam and bread sandwich. Although Sepo didn't actually see anyone take it, he instantly suspects that Poloko did the deed because Poloko is fat and probably has sticky fingers. Sepo and Tapiwa spread rumors that Poloko is a thief. Precious doesn't like the idea that an innocent person can take the blame for stealing and wonders how her classmates can turn on someone when there is no proof.

Upset and seeking to uncover the real culprit, Precious decides to look for evidence. As she hunts for clues during her walk home from school with Poloko, something enlightening happens: they see the wrongdoers! Precious is excited by this discovery, but knows that she must prove who the perpetrator is to her classmates. Now she just needs a clever plan to reveal the truth behind the crime. At night, she has a dream that brings to light a perfect way to trap and expose the crooks.
Read more ›
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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on May 13, 2012
Format: Paperback
There was once a time, best beloved, when the early chapter book section of your local lending library was a veritable wasteland of white characters. Oh, every once in a while you might be able to get your hands on The Stories Julian Tells or My Name Is Maria Isabel but by and large they were it, man. Then, in the last ten years or so, something changed. Suddenly there was an influx of great books starring kids of a diverse range of backgrounds and races. Different nationalities would sort of come up too (Younguncle Comes to Town, The White Elephant, Rickshaw Girl, etc.) but they remain, to this day, far less common. Then, two years ago, the amazing and delightful Anna Hibiscus by Atinuke hit American shores and the masses did rejoice. The series was remarkable, not just for the great writing and art, but because until that moment the idea of reading about a girl living in contemporary Africa was a dear and distant dream. Maybe that's what helped to convince American publishers to bring over Alexander McCall Smith's enjoyable early chapter book The Great Cake Mystery: Precious Ramotswe's Very First Case.Read more ›
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 28, 2012
Format: Paperback
"You shall not steal." -- Deuteronomy 5:19 (NKJV)

One of the greatest pleasures of my life has been reading mystery stories with intent to solve the mystery before the author reveals the solution. Almost all authors play fair and provide enough information for you to figure it out on your own. I like best those stories that emphasize the mystery and some enduring lessons about loving one another, rather than the sensationalism that can permeate a lot of contemporary mystery fiction.

What a delight it was to discover The Great Cake Mystery and to realize that it's a perfect introduction to detective fiction for a youngster . . . whether a grandchild, a child, a niece, a nephew, or a little friend. I felt like buying a gross of this book and having them on hand to share with young readers.

The story centers on Precious Ramotswe as a child and how her interest in becoming a detective was launched. The story fits in well with the very first book in the adult series, The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, which emphasizes interaction with Africa . . . not just Africans . . . as the later stories tend to do.

The illustrations are particularly well chosen to increase interest and to provide context that someone who hasn't been to Africa might miss. I also appreciated the pronunciation tips. (I've been wondering how to say "Mma" ever since I first saw it in the series.)

You'll feel youthful delight in this story which delicately captures a child's world . . . without talking down to the child.

It's a major achievement from a masterful storyteller!

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