This book has some interesting historical links as well as a fun mystery. It’s another one of the fiction nominees for the 2016 Silver Birch Awards from the Ontario Library Association.
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.
The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency: The Case of the Missing Moonstone was written by Jordan Stratford with art by Kelly Murphy. It was published by Alfred A. Knopf in 2015.
I loved the idea of stepping back into history to explore what famous scientists may have been like when they were growing up. Ada and Mary have very different and interesting personalities.
The characters are really what makes this story come alive and keeps the book engaging. The detective agency is a fun idea, though I wished the mystery element was a bit more complex and there were more interesting clues for the girls to solve (especially ones that would take more advantage of Ada’s scientific knowledge).
I also enjoyed all the details from the early 1800’s, especially the differences in the use of language between then and now.
It’s interesting to study how the author incorporates historical events into a middle grade novel. Be sure to check out the author notes where he explains how he has modified real events to create a compelling story.
“Force…equals…mass…times…acceleration,” muttered Ada as she wrote in her notebook.
“Ada looked at her as if she were some undiscovered species of sea creature mysteriously washed ashore.”
“Tall wooden bookshelves stood in ranks that seemed to go on and on forever below the London streets, each square shelf stacked with aging gray newspapers, folded like blankets.”
“With each collection of brackets, she simplified all the thoughts in her head down to manageable groups, like variables in an equation.”
Jordan Stratford lives on an island in British Columbia, Canada, where he is working on the next novel in the series.
In the FAQ on his website, Jordan Stratford has some good advice for writers: “Get that draft over with. Don’t put it off because you’re afraid it will be terrible. Of COURSE it will be terrible. But that gives you something to fix, and that bit is really joyous, really rewarding.”
Have students research a woman scientist. Create a class museum (virtual or physical) to showcase their amazing discoveries.
Have students write their own short story using a famous woman scientist as one of the main characters.
This book has an extensive educator guide with STEM connections and connections to Common Core Standards.