★★★★★ The Case of the Brown Scraggly Dog is the fourth entry in Janice Spina’s middle-grade series about twin detectives Derek and Davey Donato. The two boys share a gift for magical powers and a bond that allows them to communicate mind-to-mind, which they’ve termed ‘TT’ or ‘twin telepathy.’ Still fledgling warlocks, Davey and Derek receive training from their Aunt Gigi, who is herself an experienced magic-user. One day during training the trio encounters a startled stray dog, and they immediately launch an investigation into the dog’s owner and condition. The group also receives help from the spirit of a cat named Mianna, who lives inside Aunt Gigi’s crystal ball, and their friend Mickey “Cat” Catonni. With such a dynamic team working earnestly to help a lost dog find its owner, it’s just a matter of time before the case is solved. But what discoveries will solving this mystery bring?
This is a sweet, classically entertaining story about two charming boys, as well as their quirky group of friends and family. Over the course of the series, Spina has built up a collection of characters whose emotional openness and intellectual curiosity will doubtlessly draw in and enthrall young readers. Having established Derek and Davey’s status as novice magicians, one could easily imagine the exciting and hilarious directions in which this series might be diverted. While The Case of the Brown Scraggly Dog certainly provides enough appeal to stand on its own, the story’s real pull is in allowing the reader to ask, “What mischief will Derek and Davey get up to next?”