Sunday, January 6, 2013

A Good Mystery Book for Kids

Well, I thought I would start off the new year with some fun mystery books.  Nothing like a puzzle to get the brain going.  There have been some great mystery books published this last year, especially with the new offering from Lemony Snicket, so perhaps we may start to see a trend towards this genre.

I personally think mysteries offer kids a chance to hone their ability to predict where the action is going in a story, as well as to keep them focused on some of the smaller details in the narrative.  Whether they solve the mystery or not, that is a win.  So get out your magnifying glass and your thinking cap, because this weeks offerings will test your ability to solve a puzzle, and in the case of our first book, the puzzles are everywhere!

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Title:        The Puzzler’s Mansion

Author:    Eric Berlin

Target:     Grades 4 - 7

Series:      Yes

What this book is about:
Winston Breen is addicted to puzzles.  When he is invited to a puzzle party at the home of a famous musician, he manages to secure invites for his two best friends.  As they work through a series of clever puzzles, they find another mystery is afoot.  The prizes are going missing.  Who could be taking these valuable possessions, and does this mean they must solve another puzzle, that of the missing prizes?

Why I love this book:
This book is the third in the series, but they do not have to be read in order to be enjoyed.  Brainteasers are scattered liberally throughout the story, and they made this puzzle solving mom jump for joy.  The puzzles were not run of the mill, and kids will be challenged to get the answers.  While the writing is not earth shattering, the cleverness of the games are wonderful along with nice lessons on good sportsmanship.

Who this book is for:
Any kid who likes brain teasers will just eat this book up.  The puzzles are tough so I would not recommend this book for younger kids.  There are even supplemental puzzles in the back for kids who want to continue to be challenged.

Final thoughts:
I hated myself when I wimped out and looked in the back for the puzzle answers, only to find it so obvious once I knew!

To purchase this book, click here to connect to Amazon: The Puzzler's Mansion: The Puzzling World of Winston Breen

Title:         “Who Could That Be at This Hour?”

Author:     Lemony Snicket

Target:      Grades 4-7

Series:       This is the first book in a planned series

What this book is about:
Ok, this won’t be easy.  Lemony Snicket is a boy on a mission.  He abandons his parents (or are they his parents?) in a tea shop to become an apprentice to S. Theodora Markson.  They go to a seaside town, which is no longer by the sea, to investigate a stolen item, which appears not to have been stolen at all.  Lemony meets a girl who takes a keen interest in the item and makes him realize that he has been asking all the wrong questions!

Why I love this book:
This book feels like you have been dropped in the middle of the story with no life vest.  Our narrator, Lemony Snicket talks to his readers as though they know the background of this narrative and we are scrambling to glean clues along the way.  Of course, just when you think you might have something figured out, the reader, just like the narrator, realizes that we have been going down the wrong path.

This is a mystery, and a fun one at that.  It is written in Lemony Snicket style, with a rich vocabulary, and definitions deftly included to help the reader out.  The adults all seem to exhibit the highest levels of stupidity which thwart the children at every turn, but once the adults are ignored, the real investigations begin.  The one disappointment was that after all the twists and turns, the mystery seems no closer to being solved at the end than it did at the beginning.  But it was an entertaining ride.

Who this book is for:
My eleven year old son thought the book was great.  I think fans of a Series of Unfortunate Events, who like this writing style, will also enjoy this book.  I don’t think it will play well for every child, but kids who like a mystery, a smart main character and have a willingness to figure things out, will be taken by this book.

Final thoughts:
I just know the illustrations by Seth contain more hints to the mystery, but it will take more clues for me to figure them out!

To purchase this book, click here to connect to Amazon: "Who Could That Be at This Hour?" (All the Wrong Questions)

Title:        Girl’s Best Friend (Maggie Brooklyn Mystery)

Author:    Leslie Margolis

Target:     Grades 4-6

Series:      Yes

What this book is about:
This book is about twelve year old Maggie, who starts a dog walking business.   When her frenemie’s dog is stolen and held for ransom, Maggie starts putting together the clues she has observed during her daily walks.  This leads to her solving not one, but two mysteries that have been plaguing those around her!

Why I love this book:
Maggie is a very likable character and she is dealing with all the same things girls her age are wrestling with: a crush on a boy, figuring out who her true friends are, balancing her passion and her schoolwork, and not getting too embarrassed by her parents.

While the mystery is fun, it is not a who dun it in the sense of the Sammy Keyes Mysteries, where the reader can realistically solve the mystery.  However, with a good sense of observation, readers will be putting the pieces together along with Maggie.

Who this book is for:
This is a girl book, and kids who liked the Cupcake Diaries will find some of the similar themes in these books, but centered around a mystery.

Final thoughts:
A real girl with a penchant for solving mysteries!

To purchase this book, click here to connect to Amazon: Girl's Best Friend (Maggie Brooklyn Mystery)

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