Scoop Review of Books

Colourful Mystery

Book Review
Who Stole the Rainbow? A Mystery Thriller by Vasanti Unka (Picture Puffin, $19.99)
Reviewed by Melinda Szymanik

stole_rainbow_cover_webSuch a clever idea, this vibrant picture book explores what makes a rainbow by disguising the answer in a thrilling investigation by Inspector Beagle, who interrogates the wind, the rain and the cloud to determine where the rainbow has disappeared to. We have interviews, and police files, but the Inspector is stuck, until the mystery is solved with a clever twist and a well-placed fold out page.

The text is clear and simple yet never dull, utilizing a number of language techniques such as internal rhyme, personification and onomatopoeia to keep things fun and interesting. There are also plenty of ‘investigation’ related words to add to the vocabulary, like ‘witnesses’ and ‘clues’, ‘culprits’ and ‘accomplices’. There is drama – “the rainbow was GONE!”, and a lovely understated humour, as seen in the illustration that shows Inspector Beagle lying in the grass as he “searched the crime scene” above him, and then, when he is standing in a flood of tears.


The art work is bold and confronting with fresh, vivid colours. This is entirely appropriate in a thriller about a missing rainbow, and young readers will be drawn in by the energy and personality in the illustrations.

I loved the effortless cool of Inspector Beagle, and children will enjoy spotting the mouse duo who spot the crime in the first place, and who can be seen popping up on every page. There’s a little engineering with a couple of fab fold out pages, and a handy brief science-based explanation as well as a code to scan for more information, at the end of the book. This is a terrific way to explain the rainbow phenomenon to a young audience while having a bit of fun and excitement along the way.