Sunday, August 5, 2012

A Whodunit For the Early Reader!

I always have a challenge finding great early chapter books for kids.  So many books feel dumbed down for this age group, so when I find a winner I really get excited.

Recently I have come across an unparralled number of mystery books in this category.  Who dun its are great for early readers because they have to find clues in the story to help them either solve the mystery or understand who the suspects might be.  This kind of foreshadowing and plot development are great for beginning chapter book readers as they prepare to move to more complex novels.

This week I have mysteries for baseball lovers, those who couldn't get enough of Fancy Nancy and a new entrant to kid's fiction, Alexander McCall Smith, the beloved author of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series for adults.

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Title:          The Great Cake Mystery
Author:      Alexander McCall Smith
Target:       Grades 1-3
Series:        It will depend on the success of this book
What this book is about:
Precious Ramotswe lives in Botswana, and she would like to be a detective.  Her first case happens upon her at school, where sweets are being stolen from the lunches of the other children.  While some are quick to accuse one of their classmates who is prone to eating sweets, Precious knows that without any proof it is unfair to accuse him.  Will she find the truth and help exonerate her friend?
Why I love this book:
This book is based on the early years of Precious, the main character in the best selling adult series, The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency.  While I have not read the series, I have seen the charming HBO series based on the books and this is a lovely spin off for kids.
I found this book wonderful.  It speaks to a younger audience and while not subtle in its messages of honesty and stereotypes, children at this age, to a greater extent, need things spelled out for them, which this book does in the most endearing way.
I also love it when a book exposes children to a different culture in a non preaching way.  This book is a delightful mystery, with good messages, that just happens to takes place in Botswana!
Who this book is for:
This book may be a hard sell simply because the illustrations, while quite impressive to adults, simply don’t have a children’s appeal.  However, I would encourage you to read the first chapter to kids and I think they will be hooked.  Pictures are plentiful, although not on every page, so children have to feel comfortable reading a full page of text to enjoy this book on their own.
This is also a wonderful class read aloud.  The author has included discussion questions and activities for the book, so it can truly be a learning experience for kids, even to simply getting out a map and finding Botswana before you start reading!
Final thoughts:
The feel good mystery of the year!

To purchase this book, please visit your local bookstore or click here for a link to Amazon: The Great Cake Mystery: Precious Ramotswe's Very First Case: A Number 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Book for Young Readers  A portion of each purchase goes to support this blog.

Title:         Nancy Clancy Super Sleuth
Author:     Jane O’Connor
Target:      Grades 1-3
Series:       This is the first book in a planned series
What this book is about:
Our old picture book friend Fancy Nancy and her best friend Bree are partners in crime fighting, looking for mysteries to solve.  However, a mystery finds them right in their own back yard.  After Family Day at their school, their teacher’s enticing blue marble goes missing, and they are on the case, collecting clues and analyzing suspects.  Will they find the culprit?
Why I love this book:
Well, Jane O’Connor is truly building out her Fancy Nancy brand, from picture books to early readers and now her first chapter book.   While this book lacks the charm of Ivy and Bean, it should be a big hit for girls who have enjoyed all the other Fancy Nancy offerings.  It is written in the same style as the picture books,  defining “fancy” words and with Nancy’s over the top personality.
Who this book is for:
Any girls starting chapter books.  There are not pictures on every page, but they a scattered liberally throughout the book.  The same illustrator from the picture books, Robin Preiss Glasser provides her delightfully appealing artwork.
Final thoughts:
A nice first offering into the chapter book realm.

To purchase this book, please visit your local bookstore or click here for a link to Amazon: Fancy Nancy: Nancy Clancy,   Super Sleuth  A portion of each purchase goes to support this blog.

Title:         Ballpark Mysteries: The Fenway Foul-Up
Author:     David A. Kelly
Target:      Grades 1-3
Series:       Yes
What this book is about:
Each book in this series is a mystery set at a different ballpark.  In this mystery, the Boston Red Sox’s leading home run hitter has had his bat stolen.  Without this lucky bat, the Red Soxs are in danger of loosing to the A’s.  Cousins Kate and Mike, whose parents work as sports writers, are on the case to help find the missing bat.  Will they find the bat and will the Red Soxs win the game?
Why I love this book:
Great early chapter book!  The mystery is fun and not too obvious for this age group.  There were a few clues that misdirect the reader which makes the mystery more interesting.   Just the right amount of baseball trivia and game action to engage baseball lovers.  
Who this book is for:
Kids who enjoy baseball and a good mystery!  Good book for kids just starting chapter books.  The format and look of the pages is very reminiscent of Magic Tree House.  I might call it Magic Tree House Hits the Big Leagues!
Final thoughts:
A great fit for baseball loving early readers.

To purchase this book, please visit your local bookstore or click here for a link to Amazon: Ballpark Mysteries #1: The Fenway Foul-up (A Stepping Stone Book(TM))  A portion of each purchase goes to support this blog.

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