The Upper Case: Trouble in Capital City (Private I)

by Tara Lazar (Author) Ross MacDonald (Illustrator)

The Upper Case: Trouble in Capital City (Private I)
Reading Level: K − 1st Grade
Series: Private I

Just when Private I thinks all is calm-now that he's cracked the case of 7 Ate 9-Question Mark storms into the office.

Mark is worried. All the uppercase letters are M-I-S-S-I-N-G! But that's absurd. This is CAPITAL City!Private I is the last letter standing. Will he solve his BIGGEST mystery yet, the UPPER CASE, before it's too late?!

Filled with the same humor, wit, and quirkiness of the hit 7 Ate 9: The Untold Story, comes another laugh-out-loud whodunit.

More books in the series - See All

Kirkus Reviews

Both a hilarious spoof of a noir novel and a clever comment on modern punctuation misuse . 

Publishers Weekly

In a follow-up to 7 Ate 9, trouble comes to Capital City when every one of its namesake capital letters--except for Private I--disappear. Prompted by Question Mark and Exclamation, Private I immediately tackles the Upper Case. Punctuated by ample wordplay ("Hyphen was busy dashing around town"), Private I searches the city high and low for leads, finally spying the missing caps on a movie theater marquee. A twist reveals that Exclamation is "crooked," having made false promises of cinema fame to the capital letters in exchange for a little quiet. Peace is restored and Exclamation "straightened out" with assistance from the Grammar Police. Though many of the jokes are unlikely to resonate with readers at the lower end of the age range, Lazar hits every mark of a traditional detective story, and MacDonald's illustrations place readers on the scene of a Technicolor retro gumshoe drama. Ages 3-5. (Oct.)

Copyright 2019 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

School Library Journal

Gr 1-4--In this second title starring Private I, all of the uppercase letters--with the exception of our hero--have disappeared. "This was serious...If all the capital letters were gone, there'd be incomplete sentences dangling everywhere." Private I tries to question Hyphen, Period, Ampersand, Apostrophe, and Comma, but they are all busy "dashing around," stopping traffic, minding p's and q's, packing belongings, and listing chores, respectively. Only the Quotation Twins are available: "'Yeah, something's definitely up, besides us...But don't quote us on that.'" Worst of all, I's favorite waitress, B, never showed up at work that morning. A mysterious glow from an abandoned part of town finally rouses his attention. Following B's trail of order slips, Private I discovers the missing letters trapped on a marquee, by none other than ...Exclamation! "'He promised to put us all in the movies...I always wanted to see my name in lights...Lock him up and throw away the keyboard!'" cries B. It turns out, poor Exclamation only wanted a little peace and quiet. "Capital letters are always calling me...They want me to join them. As if they're not loud enough on their own!" I ties up the case and is reunited with his girl. Clever wordplay and MacDonald's colorful retro illustrations add to the fun. The anthropomorphized letters and punctuation marks are accessorized with hats, shoes, ties, earrings, aprons, etc. Ampersand pushes her "p's and q's" in a double stroller, and the Grammar Police are represented by a pony-tailed Elements of Style and mustached Chicago Manual of Style. VERDICT This lively introduction to punctuation belongs in every elementary classroom.--Barbara Auerbach, Cairo Public Library, NY

Copyright 2019 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

Praise for The Upper Case: Trouble in Capital City A Junior Library Guild Selection-
Tara Lazar
Tara Lazar is the author of 7 Ate 9: The Untold Story, The Monstore, Little Read Gliding Hood, and a plethora of other picture books. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, two daughters, and a quirky sense of humor. The Upper Case is the second book in the Private I series. Learn more at

Ross MacDonald is the author and illustrator of Bad Baby, Henry's Hand, Achoo! Bang!: The Noisy Alphabet, and Another Perfect Day. He was also the illustrator of 7 Ate 9: The Untold Story, the first book in the Private I series. Ross has created illustrations and humor pieces for periodicals such as Vanity Fair, the New York Times, the New Yorker, Newsweek, Time, Spy, and Rolling Stone. He was born and raised in Canada and now lives in Connecticut. Learn more at
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication date
October 20, 2019
Private I
BISAC categories
JUV019000 - Juvenile Fiction | Humorous Stories
JUV028000 - Juvenile Fiction | Mysteries, Espionage, & Detective Stories
JUV009010 - Juvenile Fiction | Concepts | Alphabet
JUV009080 - Juvenile Fiction | Concepts | Words
Library of Congress categories
Mystery and detective stories
Detective and mystery stories
Private investigators
Junior Library Guild

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