THE NO. 1 LADIES’ DETECTIVE AGENCY - Young Readers
Fans around the world adore the bestselling No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, the basis of the HBO TV show, and its proprietor Precious Ramotswe, Botswana’s premier lady detective. In this charming series, Mma Ramotswe navigates her cases and her personal life with wisdom, and good humor—not to mention help from her loyal assistant, Grace Makutsi, and the occasional cup of tea.
Have you ever said to yourself, Wouldn’t it be nice to be a detective?
This is the story of an African girl who says just that. Her name is Precious.
When a piece of cake goes missing from her classroom, a traditionally built young boy is tagged as the culprit. Precious, however, is not convinced. She sets out to find the real thief. Along the way she learns that your first guess isn’t always right. She also learns how to be a detective.
|Publisher:||Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group|
|Series:||Precious Ramotswe Series , #1|
|Product dimensions:||5.26(w) x 7.48(h) x 0.34(d)|
|Lexile:||720L (what's this?)|
|Age Range:||7 - 10 Years|
About the Author
Alexander McCall Smith is the author of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, the Isabel Dalhousie series, the Portuguese Irregular Verbs series, the 44 Scotland Street series, and the Corduroy Mansions series. He was born in what is now known as Zimbabwe and lives in Scotland, where in his spare time he is a bassoonist in the RTO (Really Terrible Orchestra).
Date of Birth:August 24, 1948
Place of Birth:Zimbabwe
Read an Excerpt
Have you ever said to yourself, Wouldn't it be nice to be a detective? Most of us will never have the chance to make that dream come true. Detectives, you see, are born that way. Right from the beginning they just know that this is what they want to be. And right from the beginning they show that solving mysteries is something they can do rather well.
This is the story about a girl who becomes a detective. Her name is Precious.
Precious smiled a lot. She often smiled even when she was not thinking about anything in particular. Nice people smile a lot, and Precious Ramotswe was one of the nicest girls in Botswana. Everyone said so.
Botswana was the country she lived in. It was down toward the bottom of Africa. She lived in a wide dry land, which had a lot of amazing things to see.
There was the Kalahari Desert, a great stretch of dry grass and thorn trees that went on and on into the distance, farther than any eye can see. Then there was the great river in the north, which flowed the wrong way. It did not flow into the ocean, as rivers usually do, but back into the heart of Africa. When it reached the sands of the Kalahari, it drained away, just like water disappears down the drain of a bath.
But most interesting, of course, were the wild animals. There were many of these in Botswana: lions, elephants, leopards, monkeys—the list goes on. Precious had not seen all of these animals, but she had heard about most of them. Her father, a kind man whose name was Obed, often spoke about them, and she loved the tales he told.
"Tell me about the time you were nearly eaten by a lion," she would ask. And Obed, who had told her that story perhaps a hundred times before, would tell her again. And it was every bit as exciting each time he told it.
"I was a young man then," he began.
"How young?" asked Precious.
"About eighteen, I think," he said. "I went up north to see my uncle, who lived way out in the country, or the bush as we call it in Africa, very far from everywhere."
"Did anybody else live there?" asked Precious. She was always asking questions, which was a sign that she might become a good detective. Do you like to ask questions? Many people who ask lots of questions become detectives, because that is what detectives do. They ask a lot of questions.
"It was a very small village," Obed said. "It was just a few huts, really, and a fenced place where they kept the cattle. They had this fence, you see, which protected the cattle from the lions at night."
This fence had to be quite strong. A few strands of wire cannot keep lions out. That is hopeless when it comes to lions—they would just knock down such a fence with a single blow of their paw. A proper lion fence has to be made of strong poles, from the trunks of trees.
"So there I was," Obed said. "I had gone to spend a few days with my uncle and his family. They were good to me and I liked my cousins. There were six of them—four boys and two girls. We had many adventures together.
"I slept in one of the huts with three of the boys. We did not have beds in those days—we had sleeping mats made out of reeds, which we laid out on the floor of the hut. They were nice to sleep on. They were much cooler than a bed and blankets in the hot weather, and easier to store too."
Precious was quiet now. This was the part of the story that she liked the best.
"And then," her father said, "and then one night I woke up to a strange sound. It was like the sound a large pig will make when it's sniffing about for food, only a little bit quieter."
"Did you know what it was?" she asked, holding her breath as she waited for her father to reply. She knew what the answer would be, of course. She had heard the story so many times. But it was always exciting, always enough to keep you sitting on the very edge of your seat.
He shook his head. "No, I didn't. And that was why I thought I should go outside and find out."
Precious closed her eyes tight. She could hardly bear to hear what was coming.
"It was a lion," her father said. "And he was right outside the hut, standing there, looking at me from underneath his great dark mane."
Reading Group Guide
The questions, discussion topics, and reading list that follow are intended to enhance your reading group’s discussion of The Great Cake Mystery, by Alexander McCall Smith.
A: DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
1. Do you agree with the author’s statement that detectives are “born that way”?
2. Why does the author stress that Precious is a “nice” person? What personality traits do you think a nice person should possess?
3. Discuss the significance of Obed’s story about the lion. What does it tell Precious about her father? Why does she like to hear the story over and over?
4. How does Precious know which parts of the lion story are true and which parts are stretching the truth? Why is this important?
5. Why does Tapiwa tell Precious about the cake thief? Why does she assume that the thief is someone in the school?
6. Precious wonders if people who grow up to steal were thieves when they were children or if they became thieves later on. This question is not answered in the book. What do you think?
7. Why does everyone like Sepo? What qualities does he have that make him popular with the other students?
8. Why do Sepo and Tapiwa believe that Poloko is the thief? What evidence do they have? Why are the other children so quick to believe that Poloko is the thief?
9. How does Poloko feel when the others accuse him of stealing the food? How would you feel if you were accused of something that you didn’t do? Why is it so hard for Poloko to defend himself?
10. Why does Precious believe Poloko is innocent? Why does she tell him she will be his friend when everyone else believes the worst about him?
11. How do Precious and Poloko discover the real thieves? If they had not walked home from school together, taking their time, would they have solved the mystery?
12. Solving the mystery is one thing, but the real challenge is proving it to the others. How does Precious convince the other children and the teacher of the truth? How does her dream help her trap the real thieves?
B: POST-READING ACTIVITY
1. Discuss the theme of honesty in this story. What does honesty mean to you? Can you think of other ways that Precious might have proven to the class that Poloko was innocent?
2. Discuss the theme of friendship in this story. Who acted as a true friend? What qualities do you look for in a friend? How can you tell when someone is a true friend?
3. Discuss the theme of stereotypes and what it means to judge people based on preconceived notions rather than evidence. Discuss the need to hear all sides of a story before you accuse a person of wrongdoing.
C: CIRRICULUM QUESTIONS
Draw a map of Africa and highlight the country of Botswana on the map. Locate the countries that are near Botswana on the map. What more do you want to know about Botswana after reading The Great Cake Mystery? http://www.botswanatourism.co.bw/
2. Science/Biology—The Animal Kingdom:
Find information about the indigenous monkeys in Botswana. How does this information help you understand the story better? http://www.wildlife-pictures-online.com/vervet-monkey-information.html
3. Language Arts:
Write a character sketch of your favorite character in the story. What do you think that character does in his or her spare time? What is your character’s family like? Write a story of your own that includes the character you have chosen. Look up information about the author of The Great Cake Mystery: http://www.randomhouse.com/features/mccallsmith/main.php
4. Social Studies:
In the American judicial system, an accused person is “innocent until proven guilty.” Discuss the meaning of this phrase. Research the history of the American Bill of Rights and how it came to be adopted by our Congress: http://www.americaslibrary.gov/jb/nation/jb_nation_bofright_1.html
How do the laws of Botswana compare to the American system?