Learning Lessons with Ricky Kidd
When I was reading the Accidental Detective stories for the first time, I remember hearing that Ricky Kidd and his friends and family originally started out as the main characters in a series of short stories that Sigmund Brouwer wrote. I was really curious to read some of those stories, so when I realized that Short Cuts collected eleven of them, I was thrilled.
After a fun introduction that gives us a bit more information on Sigmund Brouwer himself and introduces the characters if you haven’t already met them, we jump into the stories. While the books in the series are mysteries, these are more slice of life stories. For example, we start with Ricky and his friend Mike in a canoe in the middle of a storm. Ricky has to figure out what to do about a bully who has challenged him to a fight at school. A new student at school believes in spirits because of an item she was given before she moved. And Ricky gets a lesson in what it is like to be old even though he is twelve years old.
After each story, Sigmund Brouwer writes directly to us. At times, he talks about the inspiration behind the stories themselves. Others, he goes on to expand on the themes of the story. These sections, while not as entertaining as the stories, are just as interesting to read. I’ve read this book several times over the years, and each time, a different story hits me and leaves me with something to chew over. Honestly, if he included a few scriptures, this could easily have worked as a devotional.
Sigmund Brouwer is a Christian, so this book was originally written for the Christian market. The target audience is middle graders. I was in high school when I first read the book, so I was older than the target audience then, but that never bothered me. The characters and the stories are fun and relatable no matter your age. Although, be careful, a couple of them pack an emotional wallop.
One of the stories in the book is one those familiar with the series will recognize. “Crazy Carl” was featured as the wrap around story for the book Sunrise at the Mayan Temple. Since it won an award, Sigmund Brouwer is understandably proud of it. Yes, he changed Carl’s name for the novel, but the rest of it is the same.
Which made me realize that I had probably seen some of the short stories featuring these characters that were not included in this book before. Each of the novels starts with a fun little vignette with the characters before we launch into the main mystery. And I would bet many of those opening stories started out life as a short story.
As I said, I’ve read this book several times over the years, and I’ve enjoyed it each time. I love these characters, and it is always fun to spend time with them. The themes are universal, and we are never preached out. They leave us with plenty to think about.
Whether you’ve met the Accidental Detectives before or not, you’ll find Short Cuts to be an enjoyable read. Kids of all ages will be left entertained with plenty to think about.