Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Review: Sophie Johnson: Detective Genius by Morag Hood and Ella Okstad.

Review: Sophie Johnson: Detective Genius by Morag Hood and Ella Okstad.


Sophie Johnson is a detective genius. She solves crimes, studies hard and battles terrible baddies. All before bedtime. The fact that it is all a game doesn’t make any difference to her genius. Sophie also has a detective, her dog Bella, but she’s not very good at her job. She never pays attention, tries to show Sophie pointless things and pesters Sophie to play silly games … like looking at the robbers outside the window. 

Maybe, just maybe, Bella has noticed something that Sophie is missing. 

A laugh-out-loud funny picture book from the author of I Am Bat and the illustrator of Squishy McFluff. 

img_9510The Sophie Johnson series is a breath of fresh air. Sophie is, like many small children, convinced she has it all sorted. She’s the leader, the one with all the special knowledge and there is no point in distracting her from her very important buisness. She also misses things. In the first title in the series, it was a visiting and very real unicorn. This time she fails to notice a real crime. 

Luckily her unrewarded assistant Bella is on the case. 

The biggest delight in the illustrations is watching Sophie take everything very seriously, and making a huge mess of the house, while the real business creeps in and out without her noticing. It is pantomime funny, and little touches like the dog waiting to ambush the robbers bring out the humour. Young readers will either be in stitches or crying out for Sophie to turn around. 

The illustrations have just the right amount of sparkle. The covers are glittery, and Sophie is fond of rainbows and unicorns, but this is balanced by pages of blander colours and Sophie’s determination to be the boss. No gender stereotyping here – Sophie has many interests and no single one defines her. 

The stories also celebrate childhood play in a very real way. Although the joke is about Sophie taking herself too seriously and missing all the action, she’s actually set up some pretty incredible games and goes through any amount of learning without realising. These would be lovely books to open a discussion about play. Is play real? Important? Should Sophie really turn around or is she living something equally real? I would love to see these used to start a debate about the value and importance of play. 

 A new hit series and a realistic icon for children who want to rule the world – but have a couple of years to go. 


Thanks to Simon And Schuster for my gifted books. Opinions my own.


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