Verdict: The Jinson Twins Science Detectives and the Mystery of Echo Lake is an entertaining and adventurous story with intelligent main characters. For boys and girls ages 9 – 13 years.
Twelve-year old twins, Debbie and Joe Jinson have a summer job – Mrs. Gray needs help clearing out her house. It sounds straightforward enough, until the twins discover a mysterious map with clues. With the help of Mr. Benjamin, the twins try to solve the mystery they have uncovered, but they are being watched and followed.
Debbie and Joe Jinson think they are too old to be enrolled in summer camp, so decide to stay busy and earn money by posting signs up in the neighborhood advertising themselves as summer helpers. Mrs. Gray calls and says she needs help clearing out her basement. The children arrive at her house, after asking for directions from a mechanic at the nearby gas station, who questions them suspiciously. When they get to the house, Mrs. Gray and her parrot, Captain, show the twins the basement and the work begins. Mrs. Gray explains that she doesn’t have enough money to live in the house so must move. She also tells Debbie and Joe about her husband and his tales about sunken treasure in the Panama, and the gold coin he showed her: “And he said once, right after he came back that time and showed me the gold coin, that I wouldn’t have any trouble finding it at all, not with my musical sense and my loud voice.” The twins don’t understand this clue, but when they discover a map in Mrs. Gray’s things with a poem on it, they seek out the help of their friend Mr. Benjamin who owns a junkyard or as Debbie explains – “the Resource Recovery and Recycling Center”, who says the map is of Echo Lake. As they set out on their quest to discover the mystery of Echo Lake, the twins must contend with the annoying trio of boys in the Yellow Jackets Bike Club and the blue truck that appears to be following them.
The Jinson Twins Science Detectives and the Mystery of Echo Lake is an engaging story with very likeable and characters of Debbie and Joe Jinson. Zeichner effectively captures their personality traits through their actions and words; revealing how their independence comes from their mother’s principle of “Independence At An Early Age (IAAEA)” that has them traveling alone on the New York City subway. Their humorous and self confident maturity is revealed, for example, in Debbie’s first conversation with Mrs. Gray:
“Hello, I’d like to speak to the Jinson twins.”
“Well, I’m one of the Jinson twins. Do you need us both?’
“No, no. Just one will do. I suppose.”
“I’m Debbie. My brothers Joe.”
“A boy and a girl. I had pictured two boys.”
“No, we’re brother and sister…”
“Then, I don’t suppose you’re identical twins, then.”
“…No, we’re not identical.. I’m a girl. My brother’s a boy.”
Besides this ability to socialize, both Debbie and Joe show empathy when they discover why Mrs. Gray is clearing out her house, quick thinking and resourcefulness in their attempt to find the treasure, as well as love for one another as they stand up for one another during confrontations, making Debbie and Joe positive role models for older children.
Author Steven L Zeichner describes his characters and their setting in an easy, naturally informative way. For example, the book’s narrator, Debbie Jinson introduces Mr. Benjamin as their friend who is “really big on scientific principles,” and explains how he ended up in the family business owning the ‘junkyard’, adding that her mother said “the reason Mr. Benjamin went into the family junk business was because it was very hard for a black man to get a job as an engineer back when Mr. Benjamin graduated.”
Zeichner’s streamlined, simple style makes for a fast moving story that is easy for readers to follow. The science aspect of the plot and Zeichner’s drawings of the map, and the charts used to decipher clues help the readers visualize how the twins are making their calculations add to the uniqueness of the book. Zeichner also includes a more detailed explanation of an experiment at the end of the book, with suggestions on when one might use the formula and experiment.
The Jinson Twins Science Detectives and the Mystery of Echo Lake is an entertaining and adventurous story with intelligent main characters. For boys and girls ages 9 – 13 years.
Reviewed by Maya Fleischmann for IndieReader
Purchase The Jinson Twins, Science Detectives, and the Mystery of Echo Lake from Amazon