There may be minor spoilers as I try to give an accurate picture of the book.
(The discussion questions will have spoilers, since they are supposed to be used after reading the book.)
Title: The Great Shelby Holmes
Author: Elizabeth Eulberg
Series: This is the first in a four book series with Shelby Holmes.
Targeted Age Range: 8-12
Synopsis: Sherlock Holmes gets a fun, sweet twist with two irresistible young heroes and black & white illustrations throughout, in this middle grade debut from internationally bestselling YA author Elizabeth Eulberg.
Shelby Holmes is not your average sixth grader. She's nine years old, barely four feet tall, and the best detective her Harlem neighborhood has ever seen--always using logic and a bit of pluck (which yes, some might call “bossiness”) to solve the toughest crimes.
When eleven-year-old John Watson moves downstairs, Shelby finds something that's eluded her up till now: a friend. The easy-going John isn't sure of what to make of Shelby, but he soon finds himself her most-trusted (read: only) partner in a dog-napping case that'll take both their talents to crack.
Language: A mugger threatens John (called Watson in this book, just like in the original) and Shelby. During a particularly hard day, Watson gets frustrated and yells at Shelby. Shelby often insults Watson. When he first gets to know her, Watson calls her a "weirdo".
Violence: Watson meets Shelby during one of her experiments gone wrong, where he and his mom think the building is exploding. It's mentioned that John's mother was in the military and toured in Afghanistan, which led to her hip being injured. Shelby informs Watson she's studied jujitsu.
Romance/Sexual Stuff: Watson's parents have recently divorced, which he feels bad about. He also mentions that his mom is trying to distance himself from all the hard feelings during the move. Shelby tries flirting with a suspect.
Spiritual Elements: None
References: There are references to various places in Harlem and New York City, Star Wars, the original Sherlock Holmes series, Britain, the War on Terror, Ivy League, credit cards, cable, Internet, DVDs, the Yankees, the Knicks, comic books, the "underdog" trope, Cozumel, various sports and basketball terms, and various dog breeds.
Other Issues: Due to her genius abilities, Shelby (and later, her brother Michael) can be condescending and bossy. It's mentioned that other people have tried to manipulate Shelby by acting friendly, which causes her and Watson tension. There are some sibling arguments, and once Shelby investigates a case of vandalism. Shelby steals and lies in order to get more information while solving the case, and the culprit lies about his part in the case. John covers up being a part of her case because he doesn't want to get in trouble with his mom, and later makes up an alias. John talks about "not having real consequences" for his actions when he moved around a lot, and Shelby is rude while having people over for dinner.
Though not technically an issue (I actually loved this part about the book), John Watson has Type 1 Diabetes. If you don't know a lot about Type 1 Diabetes, or diabetes in general, you may get a bit confused when it's mentioned.
Where To Buy: The Great Shelby Holmes is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Abebooks, Book Depository, eBay, Indigo, and Alibris.
My Age Range: I think kids 9 and up would enjoy this book the most.
Read Aloud: Based on the issues above, I think this book would be better read alone.
My Opinion: I found this series by seeing books two and three in my local library. I flipped through them and thought the premise seemed interesting, so I reserved a copy.
I loved this book for a variety of reasons. It's detailed, it's fun, Shelby's intriguing, and everything about John Watson is relatable. But I think my #1 favorite thing, the thing that made me smile the most, was that Elizabeth Eulberg's story didn't seem like just a Sherlock Holmes remake, or a rip-off of something that had been published decades before. It felt like its own story. One filled with wonder and excitement. One that would capture anyone's imagination. One that felt like a good mystery.
This book (and the rest of the series) would be perfect for introducing kids to the Sherlock Holmes world, satisfying mystery-loving families, helping kids going through divorce or moving, and for anyone who's looking for more diverse characters and settings in literature. I cannot recommend this book (and the books that follow) enough.
-John Watson's introduction to Shelby was...unique. How did this affect how he saw Shelby? Do you think this introduction affected his and Shelby's relationship in any way? If so, how?
-Watson's past has been very interesting and, sometimes, very hard to go through. How has his past shaped how he thinks and acts?
-Shelby relies on some methods of investigation which seem confusing when she first tries them out? Were there any parts in the book you thought she was acting crazy or too detail-focused? Did your perspective on these things change after the mystery was solved? If so, how?
-Watson has a condition called Type 1 Diabetes. (If you don't know much about this, and/or it has never affected your family, I suggest you look it up!) Was there anything new you learned about diabetes from reading about Watson or what you found online? If so, what? Do you think Watson handles his diabetes well? Why or why not?
-Watson moves to a completely unfamiliar city. Have you ever moved? How did you feel when you first found out? Did you grow to like, or at least feel comfortable in, your new home? Why or why not?
-If you could pick Shelby or Watson to become a real-life friend, which would you choose? Why?
Thanks for looking at Shelby Holmes and Watson's world with me! I hope that this review helped you, or gave you a suggestion for a friend or family member.
What about you? Have you read any (or all) of the Shelby Holmes books? Do you have any other Sherlock Holmes remakes or cozy mysteries that I should check out? Let me know! I love receiving book recommendations.
Do YOU have a book for me to review? Head over to my Review Policy page and see if I accept those books. If it seems to be what I'm looking for, send me your idea. And if any of you would like me to review another TTT pick, let me know! I'd have fun posting that, too.
Join me next week for a special author interview, featuring an imaginative end-of-summer read...