Sherlock Holmes meets Star Wars
Updated: Aug 27
Space Detectives by Mark Powers, illustrated by Dapo Adeola, Bloomsbury
"It was another perfect day on Starville – the most astonishing place in the galaxy. A gigantic space station, Starville sailed silently overhead in orbit around the Earth and was home to over a million humans and aliens. It was a single, vast city brimming with skyscrapers, lush green parks and even a sparkling artificial sea, all enclosed by a huge and incredibly strong glass dome. Seen through a telescope from the world below, it looked like a gleaming snow globe gliding majestically through the night sky."
Connor and Ethan are two ten-year-old boys who are spending their summer working at Ethan's uncle's ice cream stall. This is no ordinary ice cream shop; it's on Starville - an orbiting city in outer space! They serve flavours to human and alien customers that not even Heston Blumenthal would dare to dream up (extra minty grapefruit and smoky bacon anyone?).
Connor is described as tall, "gawky" and resembling "an ostrich wearing glasses," and, by his own admission is, "the clever one." Ethan is "short, squat and constantly bristling with energy like a terrier" and considers himself the "not-quite-as-clever-but-fun one." Together
they make an intrepid investigative team as well as a compelling comedy duo.
Connor and Ethan have barely arrived on Starville when a mysterious computer virus sets this astro station on a collision course with the moon. The detectives now have their first case, but can Connor and Ethan prevent the destruction of Starville AND discover who is behind this dastardly plot? Don't worry - "awful messes and terrible danger" are two of their "three favourite things" (the third is popcorn with Bolognese sauce).
Space Detectives is the first in a new series, which has been summarised as "Sherlock Holmes meets Star Wars," by its author, Mark Powers. This is fast-paced and fun-filled, with a host of weird and wonderful creatures, and an intriguing mystery for readers to solve. The chapters are short, making this ideal for reluctant, as well as enthusiastic, readers.
The characters are brilliant; I love Connor and Ethan, how their personalities complement each other, their witty exchanges, and their fantastic rapport. We also meet a girl who's a coding genius and Ethan's uncle, an inventive engineer. Then there's the Tufted Grotsnobbler, a gigantic purple slimy alien with enormous crab claws and sharp fangs who wears a tiny, sparkly, sequin-covered cowboy hat.
Space Detectives is an out-of-this-world adventure, with plenty of plot twists, laugh-out-loud and heart-stopping moments. Lively illustrations add to the humour and excitement. These are by Dapo Adeola, who won the 2020 Waterstone's Children's Book Award with Nathan Bryon for Look Up!
Starville is a brilliant setting, with so much potential for imaginative exploits - you won't want to return to earth! The second book in the series, Space Detectives: Extra Weird Creatures, releases in August. I'm already looking forward to the next instalment and more bizarre culinary pairings too.
About the author:
Mark Powers has been making up ridiculous stories since primary school and is slightly shocked to find people now pay him to do it. He grew up in north Wales and now lives in Manchester. Mark's favourite animals are the binturong, the aye-aye and the dodo and he is has also written the Spy Toys trilogy.
About the illustrator:
Dapo Adeola is a British-Nigerian artist best known for creating graphics that challenge race and gender stereotypes. His picture book credits include My Dad is a Grizzly Bear, Clean Up! and Look Up! which won the 2020 Waterstone's Children's Book Award. Here's a really interesting interview Dapo gave to Book Trust about his career, his inspiration and the importance of diversity in children's books.