Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Jackaby Series | William Ritter

JACKABY is a young adult series that takes Sherlock Holmes to the United States and flips the standard mystery tropes around. 

In a quaint New England town in the late 1880s, a young woman named Abigail Rook is fresh from Great Britain and is looking for work. She meets Jackaby, a detective with a quirky hat and long scarf who has a hushed reputation in the town for investigating the supernatural. Together, they fight serial killers, thieves, monsters, and evil fairy kings. The characters are brave, kind, and apt at critical thinking. This series is everything that you want your kids to read. The narrator is smart and dynamic, and the women in the book are excellent role models for young children who may not find female leads in the regularly male-led Holmes mystery books otherwise available. I think it's important to acknowledge that the characters are flawed. Each character comes laden with personal issues: perceived inadequacy, detrimental past abuses, an inability to open up to loved ones. Ritter's attempt to humanize these characters pays off; they are not only believable, but emotionally moving. 

The mysteries that Rook and Jackaby solve throughout the town are just the right level of gruesome for a nine-to-twelve year old who is interested in books about adventuring. The series isn't scary, though there is some blood, a few murders, and a ghost who lives in the Jackaby home. (Her name is Jenny and throughout the series she overcomes a severe inferiority complex. She also masters anger management, which I think is immensely important for young children to read about.) The JACKABY series is clever and complex in all of the right places. 

I've got quite a soft spot for the author, as well. William Ritter is a teacher in Oregon and he takes to his Twitter feed regularly to instruct his followers on "#FolkloreFriday," when he tweets threads about little-known mythos. He's done a wonderful job with the series and while it is indeed concluded, I'm sure that there is more to come from Ritter in the future. 
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