Looking for some fun new mysteries?
Sophie Simon Solves Them All
by Lisa B. Graff
Farrar, Straus, and Giroux
ISBN: 978 0 37437 125 8
Audience: grade 2-4
There are lots of great early chapter mysteries for the grade 2-4 set, many of them in series. That’s the perfect audience for this short and sweet mystery about a girl genius whose parents just want her to be “normal” and “well-adjusted” (they provide a lot of humour for the more sophisticated child and any parents who are reading this aloud).
Sophie, you see, has a problem – she wants a $100 graphing calculator and her parents aren’t buying – but she’s not the only one with issues. Her classmates have problems ranging from birthday parties and pets that don’t suit their wishes to certain humiliation as the clumsiest ballerina on record. Sophie isn’t really into helping, but once the kids add some money into the equation, money that will add up to a $100 calculator, she is in. Her particular genius lies here in seeing how each situation fits together and using them together to form one big, perfect solution. Oh, perfect, that is, except for that one detail…
Fun and intricate, yet short and sweet, this mystery has enough repetition to feel comfortable for newer chapter book readers, and enough humour to amuse nearly anyone. And that’s a win-win nearly worthy of Sophie’s skills. Also available as an ebook!
The Trouble With Chickens
by Doreen Cronin
Balzer + Bray
ISBN: 978 0 06 121532 2
Audience: grade 2-5
We know Doreen Cronin can do funny with farm animals – she is, after all, the brain behind Click, Clack, Moo, a certified barnyard smash. She’s aiming older in this book, a takeoff on the noir mystery genre that stars a former search-and-rescue dog who gets roped into a situation involving some chickens. It is nearly as ridiculous as it sounds, but really very well done, as Cronin hits the right notes while avoiding the temptation to overplay the faux-noir.
There are twists and turns aplenty in this short novel, too, as we veer from one culprit to the next, and uncover a conspiracy masterminded by a birdbrain – and another dog. It works well enough for an older kid, but is presented in the shorter length/larger type/somewhat illustrated format that places this as an early chapter book, and I’m thinking – hoping, really – that this looks to have the makings of a series. One I’d follow, too. Try this little gem on for size, and you’ll see what I mean:
When I looked up, I got hit again.
It was rain. Hard rain.
The kind of rain that makes grown men wear funny boots.
~love~ that line.
Max Finder Mystery: Collected Casebook, volume 5
by Craig Battle and Ramon Perez
ISBN: 978 1 926818 12 2
Audience: grades 3-7
Remember Encyclopedia Brown books? How there would be a short mystery, and you’d get the chance to figure it out before you read the conclusion, so you could test your wits against the detectives? I loved that. And that’s the same idea at work in the short graphic mysteries from Owl Magazine that are collected in Max Finder’s casebooks.
In this case, the twist is that the clues are not only in who they talk to and what they say, but also in the action taking place in the picture, meaning readers have to be really on their toes to pick up on them. This puts it in the range of older kids partly because of the setting, with older kids in school, and partly because a younger kid might be frustrated by not finding clues, while an older kid is more likely to pick them up or have the patience to really comb through and find them.
With graphic novels becoming more and more popular, this is a great way to incorporate them with the mystery genre and let kids stretch their own puzzle-solving skills. These are a great pick for a kid who loves a puzzle or a little challenge!