Do you ever have that panicky feeling when you don’t know what to read next? You know what I’m talking about, right? It’s very unpleasant, sort of like sand in a contact lens.
My solution for those moments is book award lists – the National Book Award, the Newbery, the Caldecott, the Coretta Scott King Award, the Booker, the Hugo, the Nebula, the Pulitzer. I could go on for days but you get the idea. Turning to the nominees and winners for these prizes is a quick way to stock that To Be Read pile with quality choices.
Which brings me to the Edgars, the prestigious award handed out each April by the Mystery Writers of America. I love mystery! And this year the nominees for Best Juvenile served up seven titles I had not encountered before. They are now pleasingly stacked on my bedside table which means I can relax.
Maybe you will want to check them out, too.
Denis Ever After by Tony Abbott (HarperCollins Children’s Books – Katherine Tegen Books)
Denis Egan is dead.
He’s okay with that. It’s been five years since he died, and the place where souls go is actually pretty nice. Sure, there are some things about his life and how it ended he can’t quite recall, but that’s how it’s supposed to be. Remembering could prevent Denis from moving on to whatever’s next.
However, something is standing in his way. His twin brother Matt can’t let go of him, and as long as the living are holding on to his memory, Denis can’t rest in peace.
To uncover the truth about what happened that day five years before, Denis returns to his hometown and teams up with Matt. But visiting for too long has painful consequences for Denis, and Matt’s renewed interest in his brother’s passing is driving a wedge between his still-grieving parents.
Can the two boys solve the mystery of Denis’s death without breaking apart the family he’s left behind?
Zap! by Martha Freeman (Simon & Schuster – Paula Wiseman Books)
Luis Cardenal is toasting a Pop-Tart when a power outage strikes Hampton, New Jersey. Elevators and gas pumps fail right away; soon cell phones die and grocery shelves empty. Cold and in the dark, people begin to get desperate.
Luis likes to know how things work, and the blackout gets him wondering: Where does the city’s electricity come from? What would cause it to shut down?
No one seems to have answers, and rumors are flying. Then a slip of the tongue gives Luis and his ex best friend Maura a clue. Brushed off by the busy police, the two sixth graders determine they are on their own. To get to the bottom of the mystery, they know they need to brave the abandoned houses of Luis’s poor neighborhood and find the homeless teen legend known as Computer Genius. What they don’t know is that someone suspects they know too much, someone who wants to keep Hampton in the dark.
In this electrifying mystery, two can-do sleuths embark on a high-tech urban adventure to answer an age-old question: Who turned out the lights?
Ra the Mighty: Cat Detective by A.B. Greenfield (Holiday House)
Can a lazy cat and a dung-obsessed beetle really crack a mystery? Ra relishes his role as the Pharaoh’s beloved—and spoiled—cat. So when an amulet goes missing from the palace, Ra plans to keep enjoying his snacks and nap in the sun. But Ra’s friend Khepri, a wise and industrious scarab beetle, insists on investigating in order to save the young servant girl who has been framed for the crime.
Once Ra gets going, he decides that being a Great Detective isn’t so bad; in fact, he doesn’t mind being hailed as “Protector of the Weak and Defender of Justice.” The comically mismatched duo is on the case!
Winterhouse by Ben Guterson (Christy Ottaviano Books – Henry Holt BFYR)
Orphan Elizabeth Somers’s malevolent aunt and uncle ship her off to the ominous Winterhouse Hotel, owned by the peculiar Norbridge Falls. Upon arrival, Elizabeth quickly discovers that Winterhouse has many charms—most notably its massive library. It’s not long before she locates a magical book of puzzles that will unlock a mystery involving Norbridge and his sinister family. But the deeper she delves into the hotel’s secrets, the more Elizabeth starts to realize that she is somehow connected to Winterhouse. As fate would have it, Elizabeth is the only person who can break the hotel’s curse and solve the mystery. But will it be at the cost of losing the people she has come to car for, and even Winterhouse itself?
Mystery, adventure, and beautiful writing combine in this exciting debut richly set in a hotel full of secrets.
Otherwood by Pete Hautman (Candlewick Press)
“Hatred combined with lies and secrets can break the world.” Grandpa Zach used to say that before he died, but Stuey never really knew what he meant. It was kind of like how he used to talk about quantum physics or how he used to say ghosts haunted their overgrown golf course. But then one day, after Stuey and his best friend, Elly Rose, spend countless afternoons in the deadfall in the middle of the woods, something totally unbelievable happens. As Stuey and Elly Rose struggle to come to grips with their lives after that reality-splitting moment, all the things Grandpa Zach used to say start to make a lot more sense. This is a book about memory and loss and the destructive nature of secrets, but also about the way friendship, truth, and perseverance have the ability to knit a torn-apart world back together.
Charlie & Frog: A Mystery by Karen Kane (Disney Publishing Worldwide – Disney Hyperion)
All Charlie Tickler wants is for his parents to listen.
Charlie’s parents have left him (again). This time they are off to South Africa to help giant golden moles. And Charlie? He’s been dumped with his TV-obsessed grandparents. Lonely and curious, Charlie heads into the village of Castle-on-the-Hudson, where a frightened old woman gives him a desperate message-in sign language. When she suddenly disappears, Charlie is determined to find answers.
All Francine (aka Frog) Castle wants is to be the world’s greatest detective.
Frog, who is Deaf, would rather be solving crimes than working at the Flying Hands Cafe . When Charlie Tickler walks into the cafe looking for help, Frog jumps at the chance to tackle a real-life case.
Together, Charlie and Frog set out to decipher a series of clues and uncover the truth behind the missing woman’s mysterious message. Charlie needs to learn American Sign Language (fast) to keep up with quick-witted Frog. And Frog needs to gather her detective know-how (now) to break the case before it’s too late.
Discover the surprising ways people listen in debut author Karen Kane’s page-turning mystery filled with humor, intrigue, and heartwarming friendships.
Zora & Me: The Cursed Ground by T.R. Simon (Candlewick Press)
When Zora Neale Hurston and her best friend, Carrie Brown, discover that the town mute can speak after all, they think they’ve uncovered a big secret. But Mr. Polk’s silence is just one piece of a larger puzzle that stretches back half a century to the tragic story of an enslaved girl named Lucia. As Zora’s curiosity leads a reluctant Carrie deeper into the mystery, the story unfolds through alternating narratives. Lucia’s struggle for freedom resonates through the years, threatening the future of America’s first incorporated black township — the hometown of author Zora Neale Hurston (1891–1960). In a riveting coming-of-age tale, award-winning author T. R. Simon champions the strength of a people to stand up for justice.