Thursday, October 27, 2011

Case Study No. 0027: Miss Bundt and Mackintosh

Brixton Brothers The Case of the Case of Mistaken Identity by Mac Barnett,
Book Trailer for Brixton Brothers The Case of the Case of Mistaken Identity by Mac Barnett. Book Trailer by Jennifer Bednorz
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The Brixton Brothers: The Case of the Case of Mistaken Identity
by Mac Barnett

Steve Brixton loves detective novels

When he heads to the library to research for a book report ...

He gets caught up in a mystery ...

that involves quilts ...
librarians ...
and National Security ...

Can Steve become a real detective and solve the mystery?

Book trailer by Jennifer Bednorz
jennifer [at]



"The Case of the Case of Mistaken Identity" (Brixton Brothers No. 1)
Written by Mac Barnett
Illustrated by Adam Rex

"Since when can librarians rappel from helicopters? Does Steve have any brothers or sisters? If not, then why is this series called The Brixton Brothers? You will solve all these mysteries and many more by the time you finish The Case of the Case of Mistaken Identity!"

Aspiring detective Steve Brixton, 12, gets more than he bargained for when he becomes mixed up with crime-fighting and undercover operatives who are also-librarians! Steve, an avid reader, has been diligently studying The Bailey Brothers' Detective Handbook and has turned into quite a supersleuth. He is working on a social-studies project on early American needlework (definitely not his choice) at the library, and checks out An Illustrated History of American Quilting when a man holds a gun to his head. It seems that all books have coded information in their Library of Congress numbers for the Librarians, who are highly trained intelligence agents. This clandestine society of crime-fighters suspects Steve is working for the mysterious Mr. E., who sells America's secrets. They plan on charging him with treason if he does not come clean about his involvement with the villain and his knowledge about a missing historical quilt that has major information embroidered on it. Barnett's fast-moving plot is sure to hold readers' attention, and children will love Steve's ability to outsmart many of the adults in the story. Incorporating mistaken identities, kidnapping, and a secret underground society, this is a fun, humorous adventure.



In the Bailey Brothers novels, libraries are exciting and mysterious places, often located on the third floors of mansions owned by eccentric millionaires, many of whom are British. In Ocean Park the library was a squat building with peeling paint and orange couches. Dim light came from yellow tubes that buzzed in the ceiling. Nobody could tell whether the carpet was originally that horrible shade of grayish brown, or whether it had just gotten that way after thirty years without cleaning.

It wasn't all bad. The library had a pretty good collection of Bailey Brothers novels. And he liked the huge bronze sculpture of a book on the front lawn. Back when Steve was a little kid, he would climb on top of the sculpture and beat it like a drum. Still, it was safe to say that the Ocean Park Public Library was not the place you would want to spend a Saturday afternoon.

When he typed "early American needlework" into one of the library's ancient computers, only one entry came up:

An Illustrated History of American Quilting
J. J. Beckley
746.46 BECKLEY

Steve decided on the spot that An Illustrated History of American Quilting must be the most boring book ever written. Sighing, he picked up a stubby pencil and wrote down the call number. Steve sighed again, stood up, and went to find his book.

Walking down through the stacks, Steve searched for titles that sounded worse than the one he was looking for. He couldn't find one. Not "Footnotes and You." Not "The Serious Skald's Guide to Medieval Icelandic Poetry." Not even the "1993 Rotary Telephone Pricing Guide" was worse than "An Illustrated History of American Quilting."

Finally, Steve found his aisle: NONFICTION SHELF #26B: 745-749.3. He scanned the books haphazardly, half hoping that the one he was looking for wasn't there. But then, on the bottom shelf, he saw it, the words "An Illustrated History of American Quilting" etched in its spine in gold. When Steve took the book off the shelf, a pillow of dust rose like genie smoke in front of his face. The book was big and heavy and bound in deep brown leather. Its pages were thick and yellowed. Its spine quietly cracked when Steve opened it. He was surprised to find himself excited. This looked like the kind of book that could contain magic spells or treasure-maps or tales of long-lost lands.

But it didn't. Inside there was just a bunch of pictures of quilts.

Ms. Bundt was working the checkout desk and loading books onto a rolling cart. She was a round, prim, and kindly woman. Her face brightened when she saw Steve approach.

"Happy Saturday, Steve," she said.

Steve halfheartedly slapped his book on the checkout desk.

"Hello, Ms. Bundt."

Steve noticed Ms. Bundt was wearing a brooch shaped like a cat. This wasn't unusual-she was always wearing brooches shaped like cats-but this was a new one. Which meant she would want to talk about it.

"How do you like my new cat pin?" Ms. Bundt asked.

"Oh, it's really great," Steve said, pretending to be interested. The Bailey Brothers always say: It pays to be polite.

"It's Rumpelteazer, from Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats," she said.

"Cool," said Steve. He had no idea what she was talking about.


The man continued down the aisle until he was just next to Steve. Then he stopped. Steve looked down onto the top of the man's head. He was so close that Steve could smell his shampoo. It smelled like peaches.

The man was staring right at the books Steve had moved.

His forehead wrinkled.

He scratched his nose.

Then, quietly, almost silently, the man whispered, "What's Plato doing in Native American Literature?"

Suddenly his eyes lit up, and he tilted his head toward the top shelf.

Steve's hiding place was blown!

In one fluid motion Steve swung off the top shelf and leapt onto the library cart. It was positively amazing: He didn't know he had ace moves like that. But before he could congratulate himself, the cart went flying from underneath his feet. Steve hit the floor face first. His nose was pressed into the brown carpet. It definitely had never been cleaned.

Dazed, Steve scrambled to his feet and spun around, throwing his fists in front of himself. He was ready to fight, even if he had never thrown a punch before, even if his first opponent was almost seven feet tall.

But there was no need. His pursuer was slumped over the library cart, groaning. The cart must have rolled right into him! Elated, Steve made a run for it.


Steve knew he should never get into a stranger's car, but he looked at the gun and realized he didn't have much choice. So he sighed, slumped his shoulders, and climbed into the back of the limo. Mackintosh got in behind him and closed the door.

Mackintosh took a seat across from Steve and put the gun in his suit jacket. To Mackintosh's right was a console lined with buttons. He pressed one, and Steve heard the doors lock with a dull thud.

Steve looked around. There was a small refrigerator in the back of the car. Mackintosh opened it, removed a water bottle, twisted off its cap, and took a long sip. He held the bottle with just four fingers, keeping his pinkie extended.

Steve was thirsty after all that running. "Can I have a water?" he asked.

"No," said Mackintosh. He took another sip. There was a gold ring on his little finger. "You have a lot of explaining to do, Steven Brixton."

This was insane.

"I have a lot of explaining to do?" Steve said. "Just who do you think you are?"

"I'm a Librarian."

That was not the answer Steve was expecting.

"And who were all those people back there?"

"Also Librarians."

Steve thought back to the dark figures somersaulting through windows and shooting guns. They sure didn't seem like librarians.

"Are you joking?"

"Oh, there's no joke," said Mackintosh. "Of that I assure you. You see, Steven, Librarians are the most elite, best trained secret force in the United States of America. Probably in the world."

"No way."

"Yes way."

"What about the FBI?"


"The CIA?"

Mackintosh snorted. "Don't make me laugh. Those guys can't even dunk a basketball and read a book at the same time. Every Librarian is a highly trained agent. An expert in intelligence, counterintelligence, Boolean searching, and hand-to-hand combat."

"Every Librarian? What about Ms. Bundt? She's just an old lady."

Mackintosh gave Steve a severe look. "Before Ms. Bundt worked the reference desk in Ocean Park, she was undercover at Biblioteca Nacional de Nicaragua. She got into some pretty heavy stuff down there. They call her la Gata de la Muerte."

Steve didn't even pretend to know what that meant.

This was a lot to take in.

"I thought Librarians just loaned people books for free," Steve said.

Mackintosh winced. "Just loaned people books? Listen, Steven: Librarians are the guardians of knowledge. And yes, we make sure knowledge is available, gratis, to everyone. 'Just loaning them books,' as you so crudely put it, is an important job." He paused and looked right at Steve. "But it's not the reason we're proficient in seven different kinds of martial arts."

Steve shifted in his seat.

"You see, Steven, some information is so secret that only a highly trained secret-keeper can keep it. United States Librarians make sure America's secrets don't fall in front of the wrong eyes. Trust me, Steven: Librarians are just about the only thing holding this country together."

Steve thought for a second before speaking. "I don't believe you."

Mackintosh leaned back in his seat and folded his hands across his lap. "Steven, have you ever wondered why it costs so much to replace a library book when you lose one?"

Steve had wondered about that. A lot, actually. Last year he had lost a copy of "Bailey Brothers #33: The Case of the Missing Briefcase," and he'd had to pay thirty-five dollars. It had totally wiped out his savings. He'd had to use all his birthday money plus the secret roll of quarters he'd had stashed in the battery compartment of an old flashlight. He even had to break open his old piggy bank, which, embarrassingly, was shaped like a cartoon puppy. But it's upsetting to take a hammer to a cartoon puppy's head, no matter how old you are, and to this day Steve felt bad about it.

"Yeah, what's the deal with that?" he asked.

"It's because they're filled with top secret information. Microfilms. Microfiche. Microbooks. And then there are the secret codes."

"Codes?" asked Steve. Steve loved codes.

"I thought you might be interested," said Mackintosh slyly. "Detectives love codes. Every book published in the United States is given a number by the Headquarters, a.k.a the Library of Congress. These numbers hold encoded information for operatives at our various branches. Let me give you an example."

Mackintosh slid an alligator-skin attache case out from under his seat. He unfastened a pair of gold clasps and pulled out a neon green book. Multiple bookmarks poked out from its pages. Steve leaned forward to get a better look. The cover showed a man standing on his head next to a title that was written to resemble graffiti: "Slide Slides and Body Glides: A Beginner's Guide to the Funky, Fresh Art of Break Dancing."

Mackintosh opened the book to its copyright page and ran the well-manicured nail of his index finger along a row of numbers and letters: P6.A8S.C7BS2.Z51 SF.

"It's a cipher," said Mackintosh. "Code for 'Mouse Linebacker.'"

"Mouse Linebacker?" asked Steve.

"Quiet like a mouse, strong like a linebacker. Operation Mouse Linebacker was a Library program in East Berlin. And though few people know it, Mouse Linebacker was directly responsible for the fall of the Berlin Wall."

"East Berlin?" asked Steve. "That was a long time ago."

"It's an old book," said Mackintosh sheepishly.

"Then why is it in your briefcase?"

Mackintosh said nothing. Instead he quickly gulped down a mouthful of water.

"Are you learning to break-dance?"

"This is my interrogation," snapped Mackintosh. His tone was harsh, but his cheeks were pink.

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