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Monday, March 9, 2015

(MMGM) The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency: The Case of the Missing Moonstone by Jordan Stratford {review, interview, giveaway}

Welcome to Day 9 of the 4th Annual March MG Madness! Today we celebrate Jordan Stratford's The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency: The Case of the Missing Moonstone...

The Case of the Missing Moonstone
(The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency #1)
by Jordan Stratford
Random House Children's
History, mystery, and science collide in a new series for middle-grade readers, perfect for fans of The Mysterious Benedict Society and Lemony Snicket! 
Jordan Stratford imagines an alternate 1826, where Ada Lovelace (the world’s first computer programmer) and Mary Shelley (author ofFrankenstein) meet as girls and form a secret detective agency!
Lady Ada Byron, age eleven, is a genius. Isolated, awkward and a bit rude—but a genius. Mary Godwin, age fourteen, is a romantic. Adventurous, astute, and kind, Mary is to become Ada’s first true friend. And together, the girls conspire to form the Wollstonecraft Detective Agency—a secret constabulary for the apprehension of clever criminals. Their first case involves a stolen heirloom, a false confession, and an array of fishy suspects. But it’s no match for the deductive powers and bold hearts of Ada and Mary.
Mystery fans will love this tween girl riff on Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. History buffs will be delighted to see all the real figures who play a role in this story and appreciate the extensive backmatter that helps separate truth from fiction. Parents and educators hoping to promote the STEM fields for girls will be thrilled to have a series where two girls use math, science, and creative analytical thinking to solve crimes. But most espicially--emerging readers will love this series filled with humor, action, intrigue and wonderful artwork from Kelly Murphy.

Fourteen year old Mary Godwin and eleven year old Ada Byron are both highly clever, unique young ladies...but that doesn’t mean they became BFFs right away. With her father dead and her mother off living in the country, Ada lives in her fancy London home with her housemaid and butler. When Ada gets a new tutor, Percy (aka Peebs), and new classmate, Mary, she is anything but excited. Ada rather hang out in her hot air balloon, invent amazing things, and conduct science experiments. But a rise in crime in the city and a passion for solving puzzles, brings Ada and Mary together, as they form the secret Wollstonecraft Detective Agency. And their first case (a stolen necklace) takes them on an unbelievable journey!

I LOVE this book!! This is the kind of book that reminds me why middle-grade is my favorite. The Case of the Missing Moonstone, the first book in Jordan Stratford’s Wollstonecraft Detective Agency series, is simply marvelous. Stratford spins a spectacular story full of sparkling writing, superb characters, captivating history, and exciting adventure! This is book is just so clever, amusing, and executed exceptionally well.

Stratford is a fantastic word-spinner who has spun magic in this book! The Case of the Missing Moonstone is set in 19th century London and this era is vividly brought to life within its pages. This book is richly sprinkled with fascinating bits of history, science, literature, and mathematics. The story isn’t just fun and entertaining, it’s wonderfully smart and witty. Stratford masterfully balances adventure, mystery, humor, real history and the fictionalized kind, and the emotional aspects of Ada and Mary’s story. Young readers will love diving into this intriguing, beautifully crafted world and never want to leave.

The world-building and storytelling in The Case of the Missing Moonstone are perfection, but Stratford’s characters shine brightest! I absolutely fell in love with Ada and Mary. Based on two very real historical figures (the brilliant scientist Ada Lovelace, and the infamous sci-fi writer Mary Shelley), Ada and Mary are two of the most unforgettable and most awesome middle-grade heroines I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. Intelligent, curious, brave, compassionate, capable, endearing, and charming- Ada and Mary are all these things and more. Young readers will both admire and relate to these girls. And our young heroines are surrounded by some other truly fantastic (and maybe even infamous in their own rights!) characters.

The Case of the Missing Moonstone will take readers on a wild, dazzling adventure full of mystery, criminals, prison visits, clandestine meetings, and perilous hot air balloon rides and leave them excited for more...and thankfully, Stratford concludes book one by setting up book two nicely.

My final thoughts:  I LOVED everything about this book-- the superb storytelling, enthralling premise, excellent world-building, and amazing heroines. The Case of the Missing Moonstone is sure to delight, intrigue, and entertain readers of all ages!

5/5 yummy cupcakes

What three words best describe your book, The Case of the Missing Moonstone?

Curious. Clandestine. Incendiary.

Can you give us your best one sentence pitch to convince readers, especially reluctant readers, to give this book a try?

For readers: Genius girls, vile villains, daring balloon chases, a missing jewel, a perilous prison, a false confession, a deep friendship, and mad science! Also that’s not a sentence. And now it’s two sentences. Three. No, wait! Five! You know what I mean.

For non-readers: The kids are smarter than the grown-ups. It’s funny.

Grab a copy of The Case of the Missing Moonstone and answer the following:
favorite chapter?

I’d have to say Chapter 14: Newgate. Ada and Mary have to fast-talk their way into prison to interview someone about the case. But Ada doesn’t even like leaving the house, let alone entering the scariest place in London. So we see their strengths combine and how their personalities work together to solve problems – like crossing the road and getting the guard to let them in.

favorite page?

196 at the end of the book, Peebs is sharing some insight to his friendship with Ada’s father. And he’s talking about scandal and gossip, and about how when sometimes someone says something mean, it really shows you more about the person doing the gossiping than anything else. There’s a lot of power in understanding that.

favorite place/setting?

Ada’s balloon is a very real place in my head. I run away there sometimes. Also a lot happens in the expecting-to-be-dull-bits in carriage rides, so the girls use those to check in with each other and sum up where they are with the case.

flip to a random page and give us a 1-2 sentences teaser:

Mary found the idea of having a clandestine name excititng, although secretly she wished for one more glamourous than Newdog.

And then they were there, at the front of the worst place in the world.”

What inspired The Case of the Missing Moonstone? How did the story come to be?

It began with a single word, Wollstonecraft. I loved how much effort it takes to say, it involves your whole face, and it sounds like a gothic castle somewhere. The name of course belonged to Mary’s mother, the first feminist writer. Mary herself grows up to become the world’s first science fiction author (“Frankenstein”) , and Ada to become the world’s first computer programmer. So what could be more fun than playing with time a little so they could meet, and solve “The Moonstone”, the first mystery novel?

Can you tell us a bit about your heroines, Ada Lovelace and Mary Shelley? What makes them special and sets them apart from other middle grade heroines?

This is a made up story about two very real girls, who are connected in history. Mary invented science fiction – we wouldn’t have Star Wars or Guardians of the Galaxy without her. And Ada figured out the code to turn big math into little math that could be crunched by a mechanical computer, which makes her the first programmer. So without Ada, there’s no Xbox or iPad.

These girls really did change the world, while they were still girls. They didn’t wait to grow up or finish school or ask anyone’s permission. They just used their creativity and imagination and education, and we owe so much to them. And in my series, they represent different ways of seeing and problem solving. Mary is more intuitive, she gets people. She’s a big-picture girl. Ada likes to drill down, see the details, one step at a time. They’re both valid and necessary, and they work together.

In The Case of the Missing Moonstone, you combine elements of history, science, and fiction...something that isn’t done nearly enough in books aimed at young readers. What was it like and how important was it to you to incorporate these elements into the story? What do you hope readers learn or walk away with after reading this book?

I wanted my daughter (who is 11 now) to have real-world role models that value creativity and curiosity. Science is completely natural to kids, and at some point that stops and science becomes something other, something outside our day-to-day experience. And that’s ridiculous. It doesn’t have to, and it shouldn’t. Science is just wondering and asking and poking and observing. It’s the most human thing, and we should never stop owning it. When kids are in those really amazing tween years, they are limitless. And I don’t want them to stop being limitless. They don’t have to. Somebody tells them to stop, and sometimes kids listen and do stop, and that’s  crazy.

By the time we see these same young people hit college and university, and we look at tech and science classes, we lose so many girls. This is a really serious issue, because we have a lot of problems to solve and we’re not going to do it by only using half the brains available. If I can keep more girls interested in STEM, I think we have a better shot at coming up with the right ideas to address what’s right in front of us. I have no doubt that Wollstonecraft readers will save the world. I’ve met loads of them. They’re fantastic.

As a middle-grade author, why do think MG is so important and popular? What do you love about MG?

I love that tween energy that doesn’t hesitate to ask questions and challenge rules that seem stupid. Usually they’re right, and the rules are stupid, and they can change.  There’s also a really strong respect in MG readers for the feelings of others, coupled with a strong sense of justice. There’s magic in that kind of caring. That’s important. Let’s not lose that to all the crazy-making signals they get in the early teen years.

What are some of your favorite middle-grade reads and characters?

Oh, “Paranorman” is a great read. And of course that reminds me of “Coraline”. So I like my spooky. My laugh-out-loud silly book of last year was “Mr. and Mrs. Bunny, Detectives Extraordinaire” which while the set up sounds like something for very young readers, ten or twelve year olds will love it as well.  The premise that kids know what’s going on while the grown-ups are clueless almost always works for me, because that’s just how it is in real life. Kids are the ones paying attention to what may be fairies at the bottom of the garden ,or coming across buried treasure, while the adults are just staring at their phones.

Fill in the blanks:
I’m really awesome at Inventing words where other words don’t really do the trick. Shakespeare did this all the time, so there’s nothing wrong with it, even if it drives your editors completely mental.

I’m really embarrassed to admit I once sneezed so hard they had to call an ambulance.

The last great book I read was The MG-bordering-on-YA book that I’m really enjoying is “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” which I’ve just started, but “The Graveyard Book” is still with me after several years, too.

If you were to bake a cupcake inspired by The Case of the Missing Moonstone , what would it look and taste like and what would you call it?

The Regency Period, which is just a titch earlier than the Victorian Era, really involves a lot of chimney soot and horse poo. As you can imagine, these make terrible ingredients for cupcakes. So instead I would take a page from Mary’s Frankenstein and simply combine slices of OTHER cupcakes (carrot, chocolate, vanilla, red velvet) and stitch them together. It would be called the Frankupcake, but I don’t think I would eat it. It might eat me first, to be honest.

Jordan Stratford has been pronounced clinically dead, and was briefly mistakenly wanted by INTERPOL for international industrial espionage. He is an ordained priest, has won numerous sword fights, jaywalked across the streets of Paris, San Franciso, and Sao Paolo, and was once shot by a stray rubber bullet in a London riot. He lives on a tiny windswept Pacific island populated predominantly by realtors and carnivorous gulls.

Represented by Heather Schroder of ICM Partners, New York.

Win 1 of 2 copies of 
The Case of the Missing Moonstone!
Random House has generously offered two copies for two winners.
-ends 3/31
-must be 13+
-winners will be emailed and must claim prize within 48 hours
Word Spelunking is not responsible for lost, damaged, or stolen prizes

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Unknown said...

Howdy, you know that This book is great for middle school readers and it would be nice to follow the adventure Ada Lovelace and Mary Shelley and let them discover what makes they special and how they contributed to our lives. Sounds like an very informative and fun read

anne s. said...

Would love to get my hands on this book. Sounds so fun and exciting!

Rosi said...

This sounds like a terrific book. I love a mystery, middle-grade, and books for girls. Thanks for the review and a chance to win.

Greg Pattridge said...

Great interview and the book sounds equally great. Thanks for presenting both here. I'll be reading this one for sure.

Jenni said...

This book sounds amazing! I love mysteries, but the historical aspect, especially that it includes the younger versions of real historical figures, really drew me in.
I have to read this book now!!!
Thank you a wonderful feature and interview!

Lynnette said...

I can think of so many of my kids that would love this book! It looks like a great adventure.

Sui Generis said...

For someone like me who loves mystery, I can't wait to read this one!

Unknown said...

Thank you so very much, looking forward to reading with my granddaughters, thank you