Jim Hummel has written and illustrated a cartoon-like picture book filled to the rafters with facts, puzzles, mysteries and trivia about America and American heroes. At its center are two detective sisters and their friends. The girls, Morgan and Parker, solve mysteries and lend a helping hand whenever a friend, or a ghost, needs one.
In this adventure, a little ghost named Rusty asks the detective duo for help. He flies the girls to the scene of the mystery: another ghost named Fred has been “rubbed out.” Who did it? Why? We never learn the answer to the latter question, but after a false lead, the duo soon has the culprit cornered. Together they figure out how to undo Mr. Bad’s magic, and soon Fred is back, happy and sound. To celebrate, the girls head off on a trivia-filled journey through American history going all the way back to the time of the dinosaurs. The book ends with a party at the candy store and two pages of art tips.
Because this is the third book in a series, the author assumes we know the girls and their world, which means that new readers are likely to find the beginning confusing. There are also multiple storylines that add to the confusion: on each page there is an on-going rhyming narrative at the bottom of the illustration, cartoon bubbles of dialogue and random trivia questions. This becomes overwhelming, and when the ghost mystery is solved halfway through, the narrative suddenly changes, and the book becomes an illustrated primer on American history and a collection of interactive trivia questions.
Any of these concepts could prove an engaging, entertaining read, but including all of them in one book causes the story to lack coherence. While the trivia is fun and nicely illustrated, the author would do well to decide on one theme when Morgan and Parker head out on their next adventure.