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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
Pasta Detectives (The)
by Andreas Steinhöfel
Age Range: 9-11
Rico notices things that no one else does. A little piece of rigatoni pasta lying on the pavement can provide him with endless hours of detective work. Rico calls himself a child ‘proddity’ which is a bit like being a child prodigy, but also the opposite. The trouble is, he thinks a lot but not particularly quickly and needs a lot of time to work things out. Rico feels as if his head is sometimes topsy-turvy as a barrel full of lottery balls. Sometimes a few things go missing, and he never knows when or where it’s going to happen.
As an only child, with a working mother and no friends his age, Rico spends much of his time with his neighbours in the block of flats where he lives in the city of Berlin. Rico is encouraged to keep a diary during the summer holidays by his teacher who believes it will help him make sense of the world.
When a spate of kidnappings by the mysterious Mr. 2000 take place in the city, Rico is fascinated. Mr. 2000 kidnaps children but only demands a ransom of 2000 Euros. While investigating his piece of pasta, Rico meets a strange boy, Oscar who is wearing a crash helmet that he never takes off. Oscar is his antithesis – he’s exceptionally clever, but the two strike up an unlikely friendship. When Oscar disappears too, Rico is determined to solve the mystery of the kidnappings. “I felt like a bowl that had been completely licked clean of cake mix” Rico declares when he hears about Oscar’s disappearance.
Credit must go to the translator, Chantal Wright, who has deftly captured all the nuances, wordplay and analogies in the English text. Whenever Rico encounters a new word or concept, he writes his own dictionary definition into his notebook so that he can remember the word the next time it crops up.
Rico’s autism is a constant theme throughout the book without it actually being mentioned directly. Through Rico’s narration the analogies aptly convey his thought process enabling us to experience what is going on inside his head as he explains in his own unique way how he feels. Andreas Steinhöfel’s character of Rico is sensitively portrayed with a great deal of humour that endears him to the reader and makes this story a joy to read.