The Great Paper Caper

Title: The Great Paper Caper

Author & Illustrator: Oliver Jeffers (Interview at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast)

Publisher: Philomel Books, 2008
Book Type: Fiction
Ages: 4-8
Themes: Mystery, Conservation, Animals

Opening Lines:

“There was a time in the forest … when everything was not as it should have been. Everyone who lived there had been noticing strange things. Branches, they agreed, should not disappear from tress like that.”

Synopsis (from Penguin website):

The animals’ homes are disappearing. Tree by tree, the forest is being cut down. Clues! There must be clues. For instance, look – there is a mysterious bear carrying an ax! But what would a bear want with so many trees? Perhaps the discarded paper airplanes littering the forest floor have a story to tell?

Oliver Jeffers’ quirky, childlike humor and lovable illustrations are in full effect in this funny whodunit featuring a winning cast of animals and a message about the importance of conservation and recycling.



  • Visual literacy activity.
  • Discussion guide.
  • For upper elementary/middle-school kids – reading activity that helps develop critical thinking skills. Student reads an on-line mystery story, discusses the key details and attempts to figure out the solution.


  • Make paper airplanes.  Paper Airplanes HQ provides instructions of how to make 50 different types of paper airplanes. Text and visual instructions are provided.
  •  Make your own recycled paper! Video and text instructions.

Why I Like This Book:

A quirky, imaginative introduction to the “whodunit” genre for young readers with a message of conservation, recycling, and forgiveness thrown-in. The game is afoot, when the forest animals investigate to find out who is ruining their forest home. Someone is chopping down branches and littering the ground with paper airplanes. The characters play detective and then later judge and jury. The ending is not your typical conclusion to a crime story … but in some ways it is actually better, it has a message of forgiveness and helping out.

The book is useful for introducing “big” word from the justice system such as alibi, evidence, prosecutor, eyewitness report, and more.

The illustrations are child-like and a bit silly. The color palette changes beautifully with each season. Unfortunately some of the drawings of the characters are kind of small, so this best read in small groups.

Above is the opening spread which completely hooked my kids, who wouldn’t be interested in this cast of cooky characters that live underground. My kids noticed that all the character’s legs looked like sticks.

This spread above is when the characters come to the conclusion that someone has been stealing the branches and they begin suspecting each other. My kids would verbalize each character’s accusatory thoughts. This is one of the great things about this book. There is so much going on in the illustrations that isn’t said in the text. For example  the accompanying text for the spread is “Someone, they agreed again, must be stealing them, and they each in turn blamed the other.” The artwork carries the rich details of the story.

This book also contains many, many visual clues that kids can piece together and infer the answer. Kids will enjoy being one-step ahead of the characters.

A great read for young and old. Don’t forget to check-out the cool endpages, a manual on how to make paper airplanes.

Picture book writers should definitely study each page and take note of what parts of the mystery are revealed through text versus art.

This review is part of Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book series. Visit her site to see the other books recommended.

31 Comments to “The Great Paper Caper”

  1. Looks like a fun read – I’ve seen it but never read through. Thanks for the recommendation.

  2. Fascinating! I think my boys would love this. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Looks like a fun book that incorporates an important topic about conservation and endangering the habitat of animals. It is such a big problem and any book that will help children care about our environment and endangered animals, is an important read!

  4. What a cool way to introduce both conservation and the “whodunnit” genre to kids! Thanks, Darshana!

  5. Well, I was totally hooked at Oliver Jeffers since I love everything of his I’ve ever read! And I love the idea of a whodunit for younger readers. This book sounds great on so many levels! Thanks so much for sharing it and adding it to our list, Darshana!!!

  6. Love this one too, I think it was my first ‘Jeffers’ – so glad you’ve introduced it to the PPBF list!

  7. This sounds great, Darshana! I hadn’t read any of Oliver Jeffers’ books until I won a prize on Carter Higgins’ blog and she sent me Stuck. (Which I actually chose because Susanna had raved so much about Oliver Jeffers.) I love it! This one looks so fun, too. I’m adding it to my library list.

    • Stuck was my first Oliver Jeffers’ book as well. Loved Jeffers’ out-of-the-box thinking with that one. This book is great, can’t remember ever reading a mystery picture-book before. Hope you get a chance to read it.

  8. I love this one! You know what’s odd, I didn’t get my email from your post today! I was thinking how strange that was, and then saw you post on the 12x page. So glad!!

  9. I love everything about this book! And just from your review! I love Oliver Jeffers, I love mysteries, I love “quirky”! I’ll be looking for this one. Thanks!

  10. I love the illustrations…quirky, but cute. It’s an interesting way to introduce the idea of conservation to kids. Thanks for sharing!

  11. That is one well-designed book. And I love the theme. I could see this used for Earth Day or any day.

  12. Yes I agree with the others, this is one very cool book with a universal message. It’s also twice cool in that they learn how to make airplanes as well.

  13. I was hooked upon seeing the cover…and then you included some images from the book…and oh my! I can’t wait to read this. Thanks for the review.

  14. My kids love solving mystery books, and l love Oliver Jeffer’s illustrations so this is one we will look for. We just read “It was a Dark and Stormy Night” by Moseley, another whodunit type of story, with a plot that looks suspiciously a lot like the movie, Clue.

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