Book Review: It Happened on a Train (Brixton Brothers) by Mac Barnett

It Happened on a Train
Brixton Brothers series Book 3
written by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Adam Rex
Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, 2011
ISBN:  978-1416978190
Interest Level: Grades 3-6
Reviewed from e-book purchased for Kindle.

BLURB:  Retired private detective and current seventh grader Steve Brixton has a new job: he takes out the trash for five bucks a week. But it's hard to leave the old game behind. On a train trip down the California coast, Steve and his best chum, Dana, are pulled into a mystery involving a fleet of stolen automobiles, a vanishing girl, and a phantom train car. For a great detective, the best part of retiring is coming out of retirement.

I confess I was one of those kids who devoured any mystery I could get my hands on, Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Bobbsey Twins, and Trixie Belden.  I have lots of fun memories reading these books, often more than once.  Maybe that's why I enjoy reading Barnett's Steve Brixton mystery series.  These books are so clearly a spoof on those other formulaic books that I get a big kick out of reading them.  What is so amazing is that Barnett manages to spoof the Hardy Boys without his stories being formulaic in any way.  In fact, I would have to say that his mysteries are more unique than many others I've read.  Even with all the humor contained in the story, Barnett still manages to create an intriguing mystery with plenty of twists and turns.  Just when you think you've got the mystery solved, another twist comes your way.  He even makes a kid crawling on top of a train in a bathrobe seem believable. The boy/girl interactions seem so typical of twelve-year-olds, both the mystery and confusion, take me back to my own middle school years. I highly recommend this series for students who are ready to move past Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys, but still want the fast moving plots and excitement of a good mystery.


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