Leon Chameleon PI and the case of the missing canary eggs

A humorous, animal detective story for 7-12 year-olds (and lovely for parents to read to younger children)



When Mrs Canary's eggs mysteriously disappear, a frantic Mr Canary dashes straight off to the Pigeon Valley Police for help. Unfortunately, Sergeant Loerie and Constable Mole's hasty attempts to make an arrest lead them to the wrong suspects. Leon Chameleon P.I., who has quietly kept an eye on developments, decides it is time to step in and offer his services - after all, isn't he the best Private Eye in Pigeon Valley? He puts all his skills to work and finds vital clues which Loerie had overlooked. Now a daring plan is needed to trap the suspects and bring them before Spotted Eagle Owl's Court, where Leon springs his final surprise..  


Janet Hurst-Nicholson draws on the habits and characteristics of the small creatures living in Pigeon Valley, Durban, to create a thrilling detective story. Barbara McGuire's illustrations capture the story's humour, while portraying the animals as they really are.


A list of study questions are available free for teachers to use.  Please use the 'contact' button.


This book was selected as one of Jay Heale's BOOKCHAT AWARD winners 1993 South African Books of the Year.


Click to buy from your Amazon store 


Also available in paperback

  • ISBN-10: 1515294455
  • ISBN-13: 978-1515294450


Now available in CHINESE on Amazon.cn. 


Leon shares a joke with a young admirer
Leon shares a joke with a young admirer


"In this entertaining story, the crime is a missing batch of canary eggs and the short-sighted police are Sergeant Loerie and Constable Mole, while the case is solved by Leon Chameleon. What I like so much about this book is that all the small creatures involved are part of our South African animal world, and the author has gone to great pains making sure that all the details of their lifestyle are correct. Illustrator Barbara McGuire has done her homework as well, for the many detailed line drawings and full-page colour plates. Created by Gecko Books, this is well produced, on good paper, with clear text, and a generally satisfying feel about it."

Jay Heale, Children's Book Specialist - Soundbox SABC November 1993


"Now if you're looking for a book for someone in the 9-11 year age group here's a rather charming bit of whimsy for you. It's a slender little detective novel and is written in the best detective story formula and I'm sure it will delight young readers. The author has had a great deal of fun inventing characters to match the various ceatures characteristics, and the illustrations capture the humour without reducing the animals to Disney-type cartoons. There's no doubt that tales of fiction like this can stimulate interest in wild-life for the young and I'm happy to recommend Leon Chameleon PI to young readers."

Sandy Dacombe, Talking of Nature, SABC, December 1994


Janet Hurst-Nicholson has written a quite delightful children's book. All the characters are based on local fauna found in the Pigeon Valley area. We have Leon the private investigator, the pompous Lieutenant Crow and Sergeant Loerie of the police and the nervous underground operator Constable Mole. The case concerns the theft of Mr and Mrs Canary's eggs. There are a number of logical suspects each one of which are questioned with the field being narrowed down to one, as the result of some misleading information given by Stool Pigeon. Leon, however, spots a clue overlooked by the Police which he investigates and which leads to the arrest and trial of the real thief.

This book, well  illustrated by Barbara McGuire, will stimulate the young mind and is an ideal Christmas gift for the 8 - 10 year old.

The Suburban Echo, Durban 24th November 1993


In this book, the story takes place in Pigeon Valley in Durban. It is a humorous story with many animals. The descriptions are excellent making the story very life-like.

Leon Chameleon is a private investigator. The author uses descriptive words for the way the chameleon moves, blends into colours and what it looks like. In part of the book the author says 'his eyes, which sat on the end of bulging conical turrets, swivelled like search-lights.'

In this story, Loerie and Mole are the Flying Squad and are going to investigate the mystery of Mrs Canary's stolen eggs. Stool pigeon tells Loerie that he saw Egg-Eater snake around the the nest at the time the eggs disappeared. Leon introduces himself to Loerie and Mole and together they search for Egg-Eater snake. Leon thinks it isn't Egg-Eater snake and he and Mole go back to Mrs Canary's nest to investigate. They follow a trail of flattened grass that leads to Rat's nest. They tell Loerie and they all plan to arrest Rat.

I think lots of young children should read this enjoyable book. It helps you to understand that you are not always right, because Loerie thought Egg-Eater stole the eggs because he was a snake, but it was actually Rat. Also it teaches you about animals and their habits in a way that is fun. The author makes the book exciting and interesting by bringing animals to life.

Tarryn Lee (aged 10 yrs) Manor gardens Primary School



A taste of the story



"Hmm, I wonder what all the commotion is?" thought Leon Chameleon, Private Investigator, edging along the branch of the Pigeonwood tree. "It could be a client. I'd better take a look."

Taking a firmer grip on the branch with his toes, two on one side of his foot and three on the other, he continued his funny backwards and forwards walk along the branch. Anyone glancing into the tree would think Leon was a leaf swaying in a gentle breeze. His disguise was so good that those seeking his help sometimes went right past without seeing him.

The noise suddenly increased and Leon peered down, looking for the source of the commotion. His eyes, which sat on the end of bulging conical turrets, swivelled like searchlights. He could look backwards with one eye and forwards with the other, both at the same time. That was why he was so good at finding things. He was the best private eye in Pigeon Valley.

"My eggs! My eggs!" Mrs Canary was crying, flapping her tiny wings in agitation. "I only left the nest for a few moments and they're gone."

Leon watched the canary hopping anxiously among the grass tufts to see if her precious eggs had fallen out of their tiny cup-shaped nest, which was tucked away in a thick creeper near the forest floor.

"Oh, you are a birdbrain," Mr Canary scolded his wife good-naturedly. "You're probably looking in the wrong place."

"I think I'm able to recognise my own nest," snapped Mrs Canary, short-tempered with the worry of it all. "Look, here are the long pieces of grass you used to build it." She showed Mr Canary the nest, now empty of her three beautiful pale blue eggs with their speckling of pink. "Tseeu. My eggs!" she wailed. "They're gone. Someone's taken my eggs."

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