Book Review: The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency

Wollstonecraft-cover1

The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency, The Case of the Missing Moonstone by Jordan Stratford, illustrated by Kelly Murphy

In a Nutshell

A deductive genius lacking empathy or social skills and a loyal, intuitive confidant team up to solve crimes in early 19th century London. Sound familiar? It’s a Sherlock/Watson style adventure with a historical, girl-power twist!

The Whole Enchilada

When 11 year old Ada and 14 year old Mary (historical figures Ada Lovelace and Mary Shelley) are thrown together to share a tutor (Percy Bysshe Shelley) they could hardly be more different, but they soon learn that they share a curiosity about the world and a love of knowledge that binds them together as fast friends… and eventually as co-conspirators! Bored with the constraints of being female in the early 1800s, they decide to open a secret detective agency, where their curiosity and bravery get them into more than a few scrapes–which their intelligence and complimentary differences may or may not be enough to get them out of!

As a lover of history, literature, and strong female characters I was immediately drawn to the premise of The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency, but once I started reading it was Jordan Stratford’s writing and characters that made me love this book. Stratford doesn’t pander to his young audience, instead he challenges them with historically relevant ideas and language–not so much that a young reader would be frustrated, but enough to make a reader stretch her mind and stray a little bit out of her comfort zone. After finishing this book I couldn’t wait to give it to my own 10 year old daughter to read.

Since she started reading it, my daughter hasn’t been able to put it down. She loves Ada and Mary because they’re adventurous and smart. She says, “Ada is my favorite because she’s not totally likable, she’s kind of rude, but she doesn’t mean to be. I like that I don’t know what’s going to happen, and that Ada and Mary talk about things I’ve never heard of and do things I don’t expect.”

There has been a lot of talk recently about the dearth of strong female characters in literature and the media, and what that may have to do with the lack of women in STEM careers. No single book is going to fix this; but young Ada and Mary, along with their friends and cohorts, are an excellent beginning. Furthermore, there are a number of excellent “extras” available on the website, http://www.wollstonecraftagency.com, including games, educational materials, and an upcoming short story about Mary and Ada. I highly recommend this book not just for young girls, but for young readers of any gender who are adventurous and curious about the world around them.

I was lucky enough to interview the author of this fantastic series, Jordan Stratford, in my capacity as the Reading Rainbow Mom. We talked about his inspiration for the series, getting feedback from his own 9 year old daughter, and his feelings about the amazing Kickstarter campaign that made the series possible. Click here to read the interview on the Reading Rainbow Blog.

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