The Hateful Plateful Trick



by Scott Corbett

Published 1971

Per usual, Kirby & Co. are finding ways to get into trouble, starting with a very rainy day.  Kirby and Fenton can’t play baseball, can’t hang out in their club house (it leaks), and can’t think of anything they want to do.  And to make matters worse, they have to babysit Kirby’s little cousin, Gay!  When an experiment with their magic (?) chemistry set goes wrong, all three end up smelling like their least-favorite meal, and only Mrs. Graymalkin can save the day.

I’ve really been enjoying these little books–only two left!  They have the happy innocence that so much of today’s children’s literature lacks.  4/5.

The Hairy Horror Trick



by Scott Corbett

Published 1969

Kirby and Fenton are stuck spending their Halloween with Kirby’s little cousin Gay.  The worst part?  Gay has discovered Kirby’s secret chemistry set, and insists that the boys give her a demonstration.  In this perfect Halloween story, the boys are stuck with a beard and a mustache that have to be scared off before their parents come home and discover all!


The Disappearing Dog Trick



by Scott Corbett

Published 1963

In this third (?) book of the ‘Trick’ series, Kerby, Fenton, and Waldo (the dog) are looking forward to a fun backyard camping trip.  The parents are all off for a quiet evening of bridge and the boys are left on their own.

Disaster strikes when Waldo gets out of the house before the boys can put his new license tag on.  Luckily, the boys possess a special–possibly even magic–chemistry set.  With the aid of the mysterious Mrs. Graymalkin, they set off on a whirlwind adventure to bring Waldo home.

These books are funny and easy reads.  Paul Galdone’s illustrations are perfect.  4/5.

The Lemonade Trick



by Scott Corbett

Published 1960

This is the first in a lively little series of books aimed at (I would say) 4th-5th grade.  In this book, we meet Kerby and his dog, Waldo.  Kerby and Waldo, in turn, meet a mysterious old lady in the park, Mrs. Graymalkin.  Kerby helps Mrs. Graymalkin out, and she tells him that if he comes  back the next day, she will give him a present–something that used to belong to her son when he was a little boy.  The gift turns out to be a chemistry set–“Feats o’ Magic!”

Now, obviously, we don’t want children conversing with strangers in the park anymore, much less accepting presents from them, but, nonetheless, I have found these books to be hilarious.  Each story involves the use of a different beaker from the chemistry set, and adventures ensue.  Kerby and his best friend, Fenton, are torn about whether or not the chemistry set really is magic, and whether or not Mrs. Graymalkin is a–“well, you know, something she couldn’t be, not in real life”–(they never actually say “witch”). Fenton is convinced that she actually a very intelligent scientist, but Kerby isn’t so sure.

In The Lemonade Trick, Kerby discovers that mixing one of the beakers with lemonade makes an irresistible drink–and drinking it makes you feel “good”–after drinking it, Kerby spends the rest of the day cleaning out the basement and the garage, much to his parents’ surprise and concern!  It is a funny and sweet book, with a nice ending.

This is the same author who wrote the Inspector Tearle books.  These are illustrated by Paul Galdone, whose line drawings grace many of my old books.  It’s a fun and light-hearted read, an easy 4/5.

The Case of the Silver Skull



by Scott Corbett

Published 1974

In this installment of the Inspector Tearle series, Roger, Shirley, and Thumbs attempt to be proactive about solving a case–by trying to prevent it from occurring in the first place.  unfortunately, the intended victim isn’t really interested in assistance.

I think that I really enjoy these books because, as I have mentioned before, of the small-town feel.  Everyone knows everyone else, and the kids go zipping about from place to place on their bicycles.  This books has the additional fun of an obnoxious flock of starlings and a passionate ornithology club.  These books are just lots of fun, and Paul Frame’s illustrations are fantastic.  4/5.

The Case of the Ticklish Tooth


by Scott Corbett

Published 1971

In this third volume of the Inspector Tearle series, the Inspector begins the book with a cavity.  And, like so many of us, he is not terribly excited about visiting the dentist.

One of the things I especially loved about this book were the descriptions Corbett gives us of the dentist.  The other secondary characters are a lot of fun, too, but I get the feeling that the Inspector’s view on dentists closely reflect those of the writer (indeed, the book is dedicated to a dentist!).  “Old Sarge” also makes an appearance in this book, adding to the small-town flavor that  make these books so much fun.

Paul Frame, incidentally, illustrated these, and I love his line drawings so much.  He illustrated a lot of books in the 1960’s and 70’s; I frequently stumble across then (Trixie Belden and Katie John come to mind).

All in all, this was another fun read about small-town “crime,” enjoyable and lighthearted.  4/5.

The Case of the Fugitive Firebug



by Scott Corbett

Published 1969

The Case of the Fugitive Firebug is actually the second book in a series, but I do not own the first, The Case of the Gone Goose, (and neither does the library).  Still, while there is some continuity between the books of this series, it is rather simple children’s fiction, a step up from Encyclopedia Brown, and it is not too difficult to pick up the story starting here, in the second volume.

Roger Tearle, more commonly known as The Inspector, is a 12-year-old detective, who, with the assistance of his twin sister, Shirley, and best friend, Thumbs, finds himself entangled with mysterious goings-on in the neighborhood.  In this book, Roger becomes the unwilling protector of an accused firebug.  The Inspector doesn’t even like Hazy Milford, but is still convinced of Hazy’s innocence, and determined to find the true culprit of the garage fire Hazy supposedly set.

While the story is not ridiculously dramatic, it is still well-told.  Roger, Shirley, and Thumbs are all fun (if not terribly in-depth) characters, and Roger’s exasperation with Hazy is well-written.  Roger manages to come off as intelligent but not a know-it-all (again, think Encyclopedia Brown).  I love the books from this era, because the children are just that–children–and treat their elders with respect, even when the elders are in the wrong.

Fun read.  4/5.