Mysteries in Bookstores and Libraries, at Book Fairs and Festivals, in Literary Landmarks, and Other Literary Places

Books and places featuring them inevitably have mysteries about them!

Books may be in a library or a bookstore, even in an attic. They can also be at book fairs or festivals, in a literary landmark, or in some other unusual setting where you wouldn’t expect to find them.

Here are some middle-grade readers’ stories that reveal some bookish mysteries, bookplace mysteries, and young protagonists getting caught up in them; both fictional and real. 

 Eleven year-old Celia lives with her Great Aunt Agatha. Although she must act in a proper way when out and about with her aunt, Celia has her room — her sanctuary — where she can be on her own. One day her aunt says that the attic needs sorting. It’s full of boxes, and books. That’s a chore for Celia. Then her aunt adds: “Oh, and it would be nice if you could find a book to read.” And so it is that Celia’s adventure starts….

Things have changed as a new school year begins, and young Neeghan (with a native Alaskan name) wonders how she’ll fit in. Then she finds a book that seems to have the answer she needs.

BOOK SCAVENGER by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman / Emily, with new friend James, goes on a scavenger book hunt that an author has set up around the United States; particularly one in her new hometown of San Francisco. They search, guided by clues in puzzles. Then they discover an odd type of book they believe has something to do with the author, but something is missing. They find out, also, that the author has been injured and is in a coma, so he can’t reveal any more clues. And then there’s a feeling each has had ever since their discovery. Are Emily and James being followed?

Fiona and her family move to where her older sister is working on her ice skating career, but Fiiona feels alone. She finds the town library (a renovated mansion donated by its owner). In this place of respite or solace, Fiona discovers a book that captures her attention. However, the book soon  disappears and Fiona is told that there isn’t such a book! Fiona sets about aiming to unravel the mystery of this elusive tome.

THE LIBRARY OF EVER by Zeno Alexander / Lenora spends most of her time in her town’s library. One day while there, she discovers a secret doorway. Curious, of course, she enters. Suddenly she finds herself caught up as a library assistant helping library visitors with unusual searches. Meanwhile there’s something sinister in the air and she must uncover secrets and answers among the library shelves.

REBEL IN THE LIBRARY OF EVER by Zeno Alexander / Lenora came back to the secret library area she had discovered. Now, however, things are dark all around. She eventually finds some others, called members of a resistance group, who are striving to bring light back to the library. She, too must now face, stand up to, dark forces that are keeping the library in darkness.

ESCAPE FROM MR LEMONCELLO’S LIBRARY by Chris Grabenstein / When a popular game maker becomes involved in the building of a new library in Kyle’s hometown, Kyle gets caught up in a contest, and wins one of the prizes offering a night of playing games in the library. He and the other winners have a fun night, but then when morning comes, they try to leave, but the doors are still locked. They discover that they must play another game, following clues and puzzles, to find the exit.

NIGHTMARE AT THE BOOK FAIR by Dan Gutman / Just as he arrives to try out for soccer, Trip is asked by his school’s PTA president to help her with something. Not really wanting to, but doing it anyway. Suddenly a pile of books falls on him. He gets knocked out. When he wakes up, he’s in a strange place. Now he just wants to get home, but strange obstacles are blocking his way!

MARY ANNE AND THE HAUNTED BOOKSTORE by Ann M. Martin (Babysitters Club Mysteries #34) / For a school assignment, Mary Anne gets a book from a local bookstore, where she is introduced to the works of Edgar Allen Poe, who may have visited this town where she lives. Caught up in Poe’s stories and poems, and must figure out a presentation for her school project. Eventually, Mary Anne is able to get a job at the bookstore, but then, she wonders, what’s that tap tap tapping? Are the spirits of the raven and Edgar Allen Poe lurking in the  shadows?

PAGES & CO.: BOOK WANDERERS by  Anna James, with illustrator Paola Escobar / Tilly enjoys visiting her grandparents bookshop, wandering around the bookshelves;  then one day she finds unusual wanderers wandering about, and she decides to follow them… into books…

THAT BOOK WOMAN by Heather Henson / Cal wonders why a strange woman always comes to where he and his family live on a mountainside in the Appalachian Mountains. She comes in any weather, rain or snow, and on horseback! All she seems to do is just to leave books for his sister to read. “There are better things to do,” Cal muses; or so he thinks.

THE LIBRARIAN OF AUSCHWITZ by Antonio Iturbe, translated by Lilit Thwaites, retold from a true story / Thirteen year old Jewish girl, Dita Kraus, is imprisoned in the Auschwitz Concentration Camp in NAZI-occupied Poland during WW II, only because she is Jewish. Then she’s suddenly given a job by the camp’s Jewish leader. She is asked to be in charge of books for other children at the camp. The books come to her whenever prisoners secretly smuggle them into to the prison area when they are given the task of emptying suitcases taken away from new prisoners. / Dita’s future husband (a teacher at the camp) was called ‘a living book’; telling stories from memories of great works read before imprisonment.

LOST IN THE LIBRARY by Josh Funk / Illustrated by Stevie Lewis / Imagine. The library lion statues (named Patience and Fortitude), who guard the front entrance of the New York Public Library in Manhattan, New York City, are alive one night. A story in clever rhyming verse tells of Fortitude waking up and discovering that Patience is missing. He ventures into, and wanders about, the wondrous big library to search for his companion.

“The best kid-lit homes are extensions of their occupants’ personalities,” as said at, with a reference to the Weesley family home in the Harry Potter stories. Here are samples of how ‘kid-lit homes’ or ‘kid-lit’ author homes or other places of importance to children’s authors, could be settings for fictional mysteries.

Ever wonder about the houses and other dwelling places in classic stories, including Robinson Crusoe, David Copperfield, Alice in Wonderland, Little Women, and Charlotte’s Web? Here you can discover something about them.

Have you ever wondered about the house where young blind and deaf Helen Keller learned w-a-t-e-r and other words in sign language with her hands? Have you wondered what life was like in the pioneer houses where young Laura Ingalls Wilder lived? Have you thought about the house where iconic American poet Emily Dickinson spent her life, or the places where Mark Twain grew up or wrote some of his novels, or where Robert Frost wrote his poems? Have you mused about the house where Longfellow penned “The Children’s Hour”? Here you can get glimpses of them, and more.


Should Parents Let Their Kids Read Scary Books?

It’s the season of all things spooky, and readers of all ages are reaching for scary books. But for middle-graders, should parents, teachers, and librarians step in and vet kids’ frightening picks, or let their newly-independent readers decide for themselves how much spookiness they can handle?

To get advice, I turned to two experts: Derek Furr, Associate Professor of Literature & Dean of Teacher Education at Bard College, a reading specialist and former schoolteacher, and Trish Grace Malone, a children’s book author and psychotherapist based in the Hudson Valley. 

Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

To start, it’s totally common if the children you know love reading frightening tales. After all, Malone says, “Scary stories are as old as storytelling and they fulfill important human needs. They draw us in with an immediate and compelling message – What would I or could I do if I were in this kind of scary situation? We are hard-wired by evolution to be very interested in how to survive,”

“There is satisfaction, even a kind of physical pleasure, that comes from not knowing, wanting to know, and finding out.”

A frightening page-turner’s attraction may be the same reason that such texts appeal to adults, adds Furr. “When reading a novel for pleasure, most of us read for the plot. A burning question pulls us in, suspense keeps us turning the pages, and a resolution is gratifying (especially if we’ve been right!) There is satisfaction, even a kind of physical pleasure, that comes from not knowing, wanting to know, and finding out.”

Beyond the engrossing thrills and chills, scary books can be beneficial for kids for a variety of reasons.  According to Malone, these books “Teach us lessons, like a ‘Beware of Dog’ sign for the psyche. Children need to know what might put them in danger. It might not be safe to trust a stranger with a house made of cookies and candy. Children also can feel a vicarious sense of courage and triumph by reading about how to defeat the monsters that lurk in dark corners.”

And Furr says that when he taught middle school, his students “devoured” the Goosebumps and Animorphs books, and that doing so seemed to set them up for more challenging ‘horror’ like Poe and Shirley Jackson down the line. Any genre that gets kids reading at this stage is, in his opinion, fantastic. “Remember that the intermediate years (grades four through nine) are crucial for the development of reading fluency—that is, increased reading speed by rapid word/vocabulary recognition and a sense of prosody. Reading volume–just the sheer amount of reading that a young person does, regularly–correlates with fluency and vocabulary development. Unsurprisingly, it has also been shown to correlate with academic achievement.”

“Exerting some kind of creative control over what scares us is one of the most powerful ways to deal with our fears.” 

I asked both my experts if parents should intervene if they’re concerned their student is going to scare themselves silly. Furr says, “I always think that it’s best to follow the child, especially if they’re reading,” but if your concern is that the subject matter may be inappropriate, he suggests reading along with the young person so you can discuss the book together.

Image by Peter H from Pixabay

Image by Peter H from Pixaba

Malone believes that most kids are smart about choosing the level of scary they can tolerate, and typically stop reading if the material is too much for them, but, “if you have a child who is dealing with anxiety, they may need support in avoiding scary stuff that other kids their age find fun, especially as they may feel some shame at their own sensitivity.”

But facing their fears in a safe way — inside the pages of an amazing book or story — is healthy and enjoyable for most #kidlit readers. And, Malone adds, “Ultimately, exerting some kind of creative control over what scares us is one of the most powerful ways to deal with our fears. That drives a lot of writers to write scary stuff in the first place, including me.”


Trish Grace Malone, a children’s book author and psychotherapist based in the Hudson Valley 

Derek Furr, Associate Professor of Literature & Dean of Teacher Education at Bard College

Of Kauai Hawaii and Other Hawaiian Islands -Tales and Traditions for Middle Grade Readers

On the south shore of Kauai, Hawaii, one of the Hawaiian islands, the one known as The Garden Isle, there is a treasure in the town of Hanapepe: THE TALK STORY BOOK STORE: The Westernmost Bookstore in the U.S. It has gems within.

The compiler of this list visited Kauai two times. During one visit she was gifted with the bookstore’s “author’s lei.” She also was privileged to get a signed copy of  the book Good Night, Hawaiian Moon.

Here are some books they have, and some possible others they may have, for middle grade readers. The books are for various ages within this age group. They reveal the culture plus character of this unique U.S. state and people; from the past and during the present.

This list features stories about, and information on, Kauai (the oldest Hawaiian island), as well as all of Hawaii, the people and culture, that this visitor discovered  during her trips, and after. 

A great introduction to this unique place! In a realistic fiction story, experience with young visitors to Hawaii the wonder and  awesomeness, beginning with their approach to the islands in an airplane. Page 13 introduces some of the young main characters captured in an enthusiasm anyone of any age can feel when coming to Hawaii.  

 In two books, there are true stories that were told by island inhabitants to the books’ compiler. There’s a story of two sisters, Jeslie (a young teen) and Breeze Ann (a pre-teen), who learn the hula and take part in the garden island’s children’s hula competition. There’s a tale of an award-winning hula instructor who helps keep this cultural tradition alive. Funny stories are included, such as those of the island’s wild chickens (a result of Hurricane Iniki in 1992) now being accepted as part of Kauai life; and then there are stories on children creating toys from whatever they can find, and young people growing up barefoot until they go to high school.  

An illustrated book about the movies made on the island of Kauai. It includes data about Jurassic Park, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Pirates of the Carribbean, South Pacific (including two young children and the song “Tell Me Why” sung in French), and The Descendants (the story of two young girls, a pre-teen and a young teen, and their father, who inherit land that is a part of the garden island owned by their ancestors, including one who was a Hawaiian princess). Some parts of the story may be just for older readers. 


Well-known people have come to Hawaii for fun, rest, relaxation, and respite. They have left their unique marks on the place and the people. Find out about visits by writers Robert Louis Stevenson and Mark Twain; movie star Shirley Temple; singers Elvis Presley (on Kauai) and George Harrison; historical figures including aviators Amelia Earhart and Charles Lindbergh; even U.S. First Lady Jackie Kennedy and her young children (on Kauai).

A story that is so relevant for today! 16 year old Lei (Leilani) and her dad are visiting Honolulu, on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. Suddenly, something strange happens and they are cut off from the rest of the world! There’s only sporadic contact with the other Hawaiian islands. It will be difficult for them to get back to their home in Hilo, on the Big Island of Hawaii – over 200 miles away, although just a half hour flight by airplane (now grounded). The only way to get back to the family is by way of pre-technology methods, across ocean waters. Can they make it through all of the perils that face them, on top of Lei’s epilepsy, and an age-old prejudice that frowns on people of mixed ethnic heritage?

Another story so relevant for today. One day at school, just before Puanani’s science project presentation, an earthquake happens; then a bigger after-shock. Soon the Kilauea volcano erupts, threatening the island where she lives. Frightened Puanani is, however, determined to channel her fear into saving sea animals as the volcano’s hot lava rushes down the mountain, over the land, toward the ocean. She and friends from a canoe club are determined to be up to the task. (Sold out at Talk Story Bookstore, but check back for new shipment.)

A boy and his family move back to his Dad’s home place: Hawaii. The boy starts right away to find out about things, and mysteries, from local Hawaiians.

 Anna and Jack find themselves on a Hawaii island, and back in time. They learn to surf the gentle waves. They’re having such fun until a hugh tidal wave appears!

 Of young Lydia, the Hawaiian princess who became the last queen (called Liliʻuokalani) of this nation of islands. She opposed the U.S. annexing the islands as a territory, then as a state; had the support of one president, but not another. She wrote the now iconic Aloha Oi (the song that happened to become Hawaii’s state song, officially or unofficially). For some lyrics (especially the chorus) in English to the song, see the Web site 

Ellen Emerson White has written a story for a fictional royal diary series for young readers, but her book: Kaiulani: The People’s Princess, Hawaii 1889 is based on a real person. The last princess and last heir apparent of Hawaii is brought alive in words so like what she must have thought and spoken. A descendant of a first cousin of the first Hawaiian monarch, Kaiulani was also daughter of Likelike (sister of two Hawaiian monarchs) and Archibald Scott Cleghorn (her businessman father from Scotland who helped the monarchs with their gardens). In this diary, young Victoria Kaiulani muses about her anticipated destiny (although not her fate, not known during her childhood). In between, she enjoys moments with a visiting “Tusitala” (a teller of tales) (Scotland’s author Robert Louis Stevenson and his family). He wrote a poem for her with words that include “a little maid” “the island rose.” Alas, life would change drastically for her at ages 13 and 18. 

Marianne Cope, an early 20th century ‘first responder‘ from central New York, Marianne Cope, spent her adult life on Hawaii’s isolated island of Molokai, to help a leper colony, between 1884 and 1918. In a letter in 1883, in response to a request to help this colony of sick people, “Mother Marianne” wrote: “I am hungry for the work, I am not afraid of the disease, hence it would be my greatest delight even to minister to the abandoned lepers.”     

In Kimo Armitage’s THE HEALERS, two young boys are to inherit their family’s healing occupation on their Hawaiian Island home. Usually congenial, they turn against each other over something that happens, but then they must come together to solve a big problem they are given.

 THE SECRET OF THE HAWAIIAN RAINBOW by Stacey S. Kaopuiki (Hawaiian Island Concepts, 1991) / The menehune, a legendary leprechaun-like race of small people in Hawaii, chose various objects and, with the help of a kahuna (a respected person in charge), created the rainbow. The colors’ names are provided in English, Hawaiian, Japanese, and sign language.

    I SURVIVED! – SURVIVOR OF PEARL HARBOR BOMBING. 13 year old Danny has moved with his mother from New York City to Hawaii, but he misses the big city despite its hardships; but  then, on December 7 1941, as he wanders about a Hawaiian beach, the unthinkable happens!

A children’s book author who grew up in Hawaii, who was there at the time of the Pearl Harbor disaster, offers views in verse of what the people experienced then and there, and in Japan.

Ben Hansen, a young sailor is going about his chores.  Young twins Paul and Grace Yamada are going on their daily trip to the market. Then something horrible happens. Can a time traveling dog arriving in Hawaii on December 7 1941 come in time to help them all?


Although written for young children, these particular books offer something of interest to readers of all ages, including, especially, middle grade readers who are ready to start making their mark on the world; especially on the Hawaiian islands where they live. In a story based on a true news report, SAVING THE FAIRIES [who are Tern birds], features a bird family and a young person who is able to convince people to save these special birds from developers. Then, there’s a group of classmates who go on a field trip that’s a tour of a ship in Pearl Harbor, and it’s none other than the young narrator schoolgirl’s grandfather who is the tour guide! Why?! There’s also a boy who doesn’t have much paper to draw on; an activity he so likes to do; but his Grandpa soon reveals a solution that the boy can act on. Visiting Grandma [Tutu] is full of fun, but the children soon discover that this person is smarter than they think, and something is revealed about why older people on Hawaii are called “national treasures.”

One summer, thirteen-year-old Leilani Akamai and her friends, Maile and Sam, members of a Hawaiian Detective Club, set out to discover why pineapples are being stolen from a local plantation.

The author reveals the main meaning and many related meanings of the word Aloha; a word that is exclusively Hawaiian, but has influence all over the world. 

A Hawaiian alphabet told in rhyme.

England’s May Day happens to be the same day as Hawaii’s Lei Day. The customs for these days are observed in both places, with each place having roots in royalty. See instructions for lei-making that children (called keiki in Hawaii) can follow to create a lei.

Plumeria loves to play the ukelele her grandmother (her Tutu) gave her, but no one in her family usually wants to, or has time to, listen; except her dog. She hopes to take part in the island’s ukelele competition, and works hard at it, walking along the beach with her dog, but then her ukelele suddenly disappears. Did her brothers, or even her little sister, or, more likely, those not so neighborly ‘flip-flop’ sisters, take it? What can Plumeria do now!?

Here is a fictional story about a year in the life of a Nene – Hawaii’s state bird; a cousin of the Canadian Goose; with data on it, such as its endangered status.

Data on Hawaii’s sea turtles.

A family works together as they show the Ohana tradition (families getting together to accomplish something).  Poi is a root that is harvested and made into a concoction for a luau celebration held often on Hawaii. Poi can be a dip, or it can be made into muffins with added butter for a tasty treat. 

About what the traditional hula dance means, from historical times; and at the present time.

An astronaut from Hawaii; his achievements with Columbia shuttle’s first flight; his fate in the Challenger shuttle disaster.

of Barak OBama.

There is a quote young readers should note, in the chapter “LIVING ALOHA” in THE POWER OF ALOHA (a collection of sayings by Tulsi Gabbard, a Hawaiian who is a U.S. Congresswoman, ran as a 2020 presidential candidate, is a military veteran who advocates “no more unnecessary regime-change wars, and advocates for the environment), among other things. This quote is by an “aunty” (a term of endearment for a respected woman). Tulsi points out that “aunty” says: “The world will turn to Hawaii as it searches for world peace, because Hawaii has the key – and that key is Aloha!”