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Children's Literature Reviews
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Coffin on a case
Eve Bunting.
New York, NY : HarperCollins, c1992.
105 p. ; 21 cm.


Twelve-year-old Henry Coffin, the son of a private investigator, helps a gorgeous high school girl in her dangerous attempt to find her kidnapped mother.

Best Books:

Adventuring with Books: A Booklist for PreK-Grade 6, Tenth Edition, 1993 ; National Council of Teachers of English; United States
Eureka! California in Children's Literature, 2003 ; Book Wholesalers, Inc.; United States

Awards, Honors, Prizes:

Edgar Allan Poe Award, 1993 Winner Best Juvenile Novel United States

State and Provincial Reading Lists:

Virginia State Young Readers' Award, 1997 ; Nominee; Middle School Level, Grades 6-9; Virginia

Reading Measurement Programs:

Accelerated Reader
Interest Level Middle Grade
Book Level 3.7
Accelerated Reader Points 2
Accelerated Vocabulary, Literacy Skills

Reading Counts-Scholastic
Interest Level 3-5
Reading Level 5
Title Point Value 4
Lexile Measure 610


Julie (BookHive (
Twelve-year-old Henry Coffin, detective in training, has two fantasies. The first is that his Mom will come back, and the second is that a "real gorgeous babe" will ask him to take her case. When a blonde walks into the Coffin and Pale Detective Agency, it's a dream come true. Lily Larson needs help: she's lost her mother for the fourth time, but this time it's serious. While his dad is away on business, Henry finds himself in Lily's car, tracking down clues that lead to danger. But don't worry - Coffin is on the case! Category: Mystery. Grade Level: Intermediate (4th-6th grade). 1992, Harper Collins. Ages 9 to 12.

Sheilamae O'Hara (Booklist, Oct. 1, 1992 (Vol. 89, No. 3))
If readers can accept the premise that a 16-year-old girl would hire a 12-year-old boy to help her find her mother, then the rest of this story will keep them happily engrossed. The plot concerns a woman who disappears and her daughter, who wants to find the missing woman without going to the police. Henry Coffin, son of a private detective, retraces the woman's steps. When he locates the house where she is being held, he is forcibly detained but uses his wits to escape and get help. Having enough suspense and action without resorting to senseless violence and gore, the story should find an audience among middle-grade readers looking for a mystery that's not too long. Category: Middle Readers. 1992, HarperCollins, $13 and $12.89. Gr. 4-6.

Marilyn Courtot (Children's Literature)
Twelve year-old Henry Coffin dreams of being a private detective like his Dad. Then one day the beautiful Lily Larson walks into the office while he is visiting. She has lost her mother and needs help. Henry suddenly gets his wish and is embroiled in a dangerous hunt for Lily's mom. Edgar Allan Poe Award winner. 1992, HarperCollins, $13.95, $13.89 and $3.95 paper. Ages 10 up.

Kirkus (Kirkus Reviews, 1992)
Here, Bunting brings a glib, easy style to the tale of Henry Coffin, son of a partner in the detective agency "Coffin and Pale." When his father is unable to take on a case, sixth-grader Henry hooks up with "gorgeous babe" Lily--several years his senior--whose mother has disappeared. Figuring in the plot are the theft of a jade figurine, the appearance of two shady newcomers in a still-under-construction development, and the discovery of a missing wooden stork. It's a point-blank mystery that gets its atmosphere from Henry's funny narration and the frequent invocation of the name and talents of "Sam Spade"; and though Bunting's more sophisticated fans may not find much to get their claws into, those who like uncomplicated suspense will be (albeit briefly) entertained. 1992, HarperCollins, $13.00; PLB $12.89. © 1992 Kirkus Reviews/VNU eMedia, Inc. All rights reserved.

Deborah Stevenson (The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, November 1992 (Vol. 46, No. 3))
Henry Coffin's father is a private detective who models himself after Sam Spade, while Henry hopes to model himself after his father. The summer after sixth grade, Henry falls into a doozy of a case: Lily, a sexy older woman (sixteen), has lost her mother, and with Henry's father out of town, Henry takes on the case. He and Lily eventually track down her mom to a basement where thieves have hidden her after she witnessed their crime, and Henry saves the mom, the loot, and the day. This is a cheerful homage to hard-boiled detecting, with its own twists and charm: when arranging a signal with Lily, for instance, Henry says "I can't whistle. I'll cluck like this," and a brief argument ensues as to whether the cluck belongs to a hen or a woodchuck. Lily is no dumb blonde but still seems a likely enough fantasy for boys Henry's age, as does the rest of this blithely improbable boy-wonder tale. A good mystery for young romantics, this'll set them on the Bogart trail. R--Recommended. (c) Copyright 1992, The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. 1992, HarperCollins, 106p, $12.89 and $13.00. Grades 4-7.


Mystery and detective stories.
LanguageCall NumberLCCNDewey DecimalISBN/ISSN
English (eng) PZ7.B91527 Co 1992
92000855 [Fic]
0060202734 : $13.00 ($17.50 Can.)
0060202742 (lib. bdg.)
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