Monday, March 21, 2011

Art, Alligators, Bones, Blazers, Pies, Spies & Shadows: My favorite Middle Grade Mysteries


Last week I was excited to hear that Patricia MacLachlan, the Newbery-winning author of Sarah, Plain and Tall, would be writing a prequel to The Boxcar Children. As a kid I can remember reading those books and getting caught up in the adventures of siblings Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny as they solved mysteries with little or no help from adults. It’s been a very long time since I’ve read those books. But recently I’ve rediscovered my love of children’s mysteries, especially middle grade novels featuring witty, wisecracking kids who solve puzzles in very resourceful ways. If you’re looking for some great mysteries for kids, check out these books:

Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City By Kirsten Miller: When 12 year old Ananka Fishbein meets the mysterious Kiki Strike, and subsequently the group of girls (each with a particular talent) who call themselves the Irregulars, they embark on an adventure that involves exploring the Shadow City, a series of tunnels under Manhattan, which pulls them into a plot involving international politics and intrigue.

The Maze of Bones: The 39 Clues No. 1:  By Rick Riordan: Minutes before she died Grace Cahill changed her will, leaving her descendants an impossible decision: "You have a choice - one million dollars or a clue." Now the clues race is on, and young Amy and Dan must decide what's important: hunting clues or uncovering what REALLY happened to their parents.

The Mystery of the Third Lucretia By Susan Runholt: 14 year old best friends Kari Sundgren and Lucas Stickney (a girl) stumble across an international forgery scam that implicates a top Dutch curator, involves a fake Rembrandt, and takes them on an adventure to London, Paris and Amsterdam.

The Red Blazer Girls: The Ring of Rocamadour By Michael D. Beil: Three friends find themselves on a scavenger hunt set up for a girl they never met, in search of a legendary ring reputed to grant wishes. Are these sleuths in school uniforms modern-day equivalents of Nancy, Harriet, or Scooby? Not really, they’re just three nice girls who decide to help out a weird lady, and end up hiding under tables, tackling word puzzles and geometry equations, and searching rather moldy storage rooms for “the stuff that dreams are made of”.

Zora and Me By Victoria Bond and T.R. Simon: Whether she’s telling the truth or stretching it, Zora Neale Hurston is a riveting storyteller. Her latest creation is a shape-shifting gator man who lurks in the marshes, waiting to steal human souls. But when boastful Sonny Wrapped loses a wrestling match with an elusive alligator named Ghost — and a man is found murdered by the railroad tracks soon after — young Zora’s tales of a mythical evil creature take on an ominous and far more complicated complexion, jeopardizing the peace and security of an entire town and forcing three children to come to terms with the dual-edged power of pretending.

Stormbreaker: An Alex Rider Adventure By Anthony Horowitz: They told him his uncle died in an accident. He wasn't wearing his seatbelt, they said. But when fourteen-year-old Alex finds his uncle's windshield riddled with bullet holes, he knows it was no accident. What he doesn't know yet is that his uncle was killed while on a top-secret mission. But he is about to, and once he does there is no turning back. Finding himself in the middle of terrorists, Alex must outsmart the people who want him dead. The government has given him the technology, but only he can provide the courage. Should he fail, every child in England will be murdered in cold blood.

Chasing Vermeer By Blue Balliett: When a book of unexplainable occurrences brings Petra and Calder together, strange things start to happen: Seemingly unrelated events connect; an eccentric old woman seeks their company; an invaluable Vermeer painting disappears. Before they know it, the two find themselves at the center of an international art scandal, where no one is spared from suspicion. As Petra and Calder are drawn clue by clue into a mysterious labyrinth, they must draw on their powers of intuition, their problem solving skills, and their knowledge of Vermeer. Can they decipher a crime that has stumped even the FBI?

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie By Alan Bradley: Young Flavia de Luce, an aspiring chemist with a passion for poison, is intrigued by a series of inexplicable events: A dead bird is found on the doorstep, a postage stamp bizarrely pinned to its beak. Then, hours later, Flavia finds a man lying in the cucumber patch and watches him as he takes his dying breath. For Flavia, who is both appalled and delighted, life begins in earnest when murder comes to Buckshaw. “I wish I could say I was afraid, but I wasn’t. Quite the contrary. This was by far the most interesting thing that had ever happened to me in my entire life.”

So what are your favorite childrens and middle grade mysteries?

Angela ; )


6 comments:

Elise Warner said...

The mysteries I've missed. I guess outside of Nancy Drew,I began mysteries late in life. As a child,I read books like Terhune's Lassie Come Home and Edna Ferber's Show Boat.

Marcelle Dubé said...

I'm with Elise -- I started late, reading voraciously but in no particular genre until I found Robert Heinlein, whose YA books were my introduction to science fiction. I only started reading mysteries seriously when I became an adult. I can see I have a lot of catching up to do!

Toni Anderson said...

I will look out for these. My kids LOVE mysteries!!

MaureenAMiller said...

Yes, I admit to being a Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys addict. And then they went ahead and made the TV series, and well gosh, Shaun Cassidy was nice to look at. :)
Thank you for the suggestions. They're still fun to go back and read.

Clare London said...

Over here in the UK we had Enid Blyton and her Famous Five and Secret Seven books. I also loved Malcolm Bradbury books, which mixed mystery with older teenage characters, so they were ideal for YA.

But like Marcelle, I moved early on to SF and Asimov. I think there's plenty of mystery in SF, even if it's not a main genre.

And I also started on Agatha Christie while I was still at school. I loved them. I wouldn't class them as having themes that were too controversial for children - apart from murder of course LOL - and the style is very accessible. The mystery is everything, and the solving of it :).

Shirley Wells said...

Clare and I read the same books. Must be a UK thing. :)

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie sounds great. I love the idea of a dead bird with a postage stamp pinned to its beak.