Posts Tagged mysteries

April New Releases!

Spring has sprung!   Time to get out your lawn chairs and go soak up some sun. Don’t forget to take along a good book. If you need some recommendations, check out these shiny news ones here:

(including one from our very own MUF-er  Tricia Springstubb!)
 Cody and the Fountain of Happiness by Tricia Springstubb (Candlewick)

For whimsical Cody, many things are beautiful, especially ants who say hello by rubbing feelers. But nothing is as beautiful as the first day of summer vacation, and Cody doesn’t want to waste one minute of it. Meanwhile, teenage brother Wyatt is moping over a girl, Mom is stressed about her new job as Head of Shoes, Dad is off hauling chairs in his long-distance truck, and even camp has been closed for the summer. What to do? Just when all seems lost, Cody bumps into a neighborhood boy named Spencer who is looking for a runaway cat. With a new friend and a soon-to-be-found cat, Cody is on her way to the fountain of happiness.

 

The 39-Story Treehouse by Andy Griffiths (Fiewel & Friends)

Andy and Terry are once again inviting readers to come hang out with them in their astonishing 39-story treehouse (it used to be 13 stories, then 26 stories, but they keep expanding). And this year they will have even more time to jump on the world’s highest trampoline, toast marshmallows in an active volcano, swim in the chocolate waterfall, pet baby dinosaurs, and go head-to-trunk with the Trunkinator, since Terry has created the greatest invention that he–or anyone else–has ever invented . . . a Once-upon-a-time machine that will write and illustrate their entire book for them!
What are you waiting for? Come on up!

 

Lulu’s Mysterious Mission  by  Judith Viorst (Atheneum BFYR)

Lulu has put her tantrum-throwing days behind her. That is, until her parents announce that they are going on vacation–WITHOUT LULU. Not only that, but they are leaving her with the formidable Ms. Sonia Sofia Solinsky, who says hello by bellowing, “The Eagle has landed,” and smiles at you with the kind of smile that an alligator might give you before eating you for dinner.
The second her parents are out of the house, Lulu tries out several elaborate schemes to bring them straight back. But just when she seems to finally be making some headway, her babysitter reveals an astonishing secret…one that has Lulu crossing her fingers that her parents will go on vacation “all the time”–without her.

 

The Black Reckoning by John Stephens  (Knopf BFYR) 
The final book in the bestselling Books of Beginning trilogy that began with The Emerald Atlas, which theNew York Times called “a new Narnia for the tween set.”

The adventures of siblings Kate, Michael, and Emma come to a stunning conclusion when they must find the last Book of Beginning—the Book of Death—before the Dire Magnus does, for when all three books are united, their combined power will be unstoppable.

 

 

Ever After High: Kiss and Spell by Suzanne Selfors (Little, Brown BFYR)

What’s a girl to do when she accidentally turns her crush into a frog? Ginger Breadhouse had a hard time growing up with the Candy Witch for a mom. It’s not easy making friends if everyone believes your mom tried to cook Hansel and Gretel! But now that Ginger’s attending Ever After High, she has a chance to forge her own path, and she’s trying to make a name for herself as the host of the MirrorCast show Spells Kitchen. The problem is, she needs viewers!

 

Ellie’s Story by W. Bruce Cameron (Starscape)
Ellie is a very special dog with a very important purpose. From puppyhood, Ellie has been trained as a search-and-rescue dog. She can track down a lost child in a forest or an injured victim under a fallen building. She finds people. She saves them. It’s what she was meant to do.But Ellie must do more. Her handlers–widowed Jakob, lonely Maya–need her too. People can be lost in many ways, and to do the job she was born to do, Ellie needs to find a way to save the people she loves best.

My Life as a Gamer by Janet Tashjian  (Henry Holt BFYR)

Derek Fallon gets the chance of a lifetime–to participate in a gaming company focus group and to test out a new video game called “Arctic Ninja.” Together with his friends Carly, Matt, and Umberto, Derek thinks his gaming talents will be showcased. But he soon realizes that everyone has got him beat, including whiz kid El Cid. On top of that, school reading tests have begun and Derek feels doubly off his game. Isn’t there anything he’s good at?

 

 

Miss Mayhem by  Rachel Hawkins (G.P. Putnam’s BFYR)

Life is almost back to normal for Harper Price. The Ephors have been silent after their deadly attack at Cotillion months ago, and best friend Bee has returned after a mysterious disappearance. Now Harper can return her focus to the important things in life: school, canoodling with David, her nemesis-turned-ward-slash-boyfie, and even competing in the Miss Pine Grove pageant.

 

The Loch Nest Punster by Kate Klise (Harcourt Brace & Co.)

In the seventh and final installment of the popular 43 Old Cemetery Road series, twelve-year-old Seymour Hope has inherited a castle in Loch Ness, Scotland. It could be the perfect summer vacation spot for Seymour and his parents, Olive C. Spence and Ignatius B. Grumply. But Iggy wants nothing to do with the castle. Why? Because it was owned by his uncle Ian, a world-famous psychiatrist and the world’s worst punster. So Iggy stays home to write, and Seymour and Olive set off for Scotland–each with a secret.

 

 

Evil Spy School by Stuart Gibbs (Simon & Schuster BFYR)

When Ben gets kicked out of the CIA’s spy school, he enrolls with the enemy. This companion to Spy School and Spy Camp is rife with action, adventure, and espionage.
During a spy school game of Capture the Flag, twelve-year-old Ben Ripley somehow accidentally shoots a live mortar into the principal’s office—and immediately gets himself expelled. Not long after going back to the boring old real world, Ben gets recruited by evil crime organization SPYDER. And he accepts

 

The League of Beastly Dreadfuls by Holly Grant (Random House BFYR)

Anastasia is a completely average almost-eleven-year-old. That is, UNTIL her parents die in a tragic vacuum-cleaner accident. UNTIL she’s rescued by two long-lost great-aunties. And UNTIL she’s taken to their delightful and, er, “authentic” Victorian home, St. Agony’s Asylum for the Criminally Insane.
But something strange is going on at the asylum. Anastasia soon begins to suspect that her aunties are not who they say they are. So when she meets Ollie and Quentin, two mysterious brothers, the three join together to plot their great escape!

 

Woof by Spencer Quinn (Scholastic Press)

Spencer Quinn speaks two languages — suspense and dog — fluently.” — Stephen King
There is trouble brewing in the Louisiana swamp — Bowser can smell it. Bowser is a very handsome and only slightly slobbery dog, and he can smell lots of things. Like bacon. And rawhide chews And the sweat on humans when they’re lying.
Birdie Gaux, the girl Bowser lives with, also knows something is wrong. It’s not just that her grammy’s stuffed prize marlin has been stolen. It’s the weird rumor that the marlin is linked to a missing treasure. It’s the truck that seems to be following Birdie and the bad feeling on the back of her neck.
When Birdie and Bowser start digging into the mystery, not even Bowser’s powerful sniffer can smell just how menacing the threat is. And when the danger comes straight for Birdie, Bowser knows it up to him to sic ’em.

 

The Tapper Twins Go to War (with Each other)

by Geoff Rodkey  (Little, Brown BFYR)

This brand-new series by a popular screenwriter is a pitch-perfect, contemporary comedy featuring twelve-year-old fraternal twins, Claudia and Reese, who couldn’t be more different…except in their determination to come out on top in a vicious prank war! But when the competition escalates into an all-out battle that’s fought from the cafeteria of their New York City private school all the way to the fictional universe of an online video game, the twins have to decide if their efforts to destroy each other are worth the price.

 

The Year of Three Sisters by  Andrea Cheng (HMH BFYR)

Astute Anna discovers that sisterhood really can cross continents and cultures in this heartwarming fourth book in the Anna Wang series. Patrice Barton’s lively and warm illustrations bring Anna’s story to life.

 

Graceful by Wendy Mass (Scholastic Press)

An exciting new story in the bestselling Willow Falls series from Wendy Mass
Angelina D’Angelo has left town to see the world. It’s now Grace’s turn to use her magic to protect the people of Willow Falls, and she is up to the challenge. This is her destiny, after all. But destiny is a funny thing-it doesn’t always behave the way you’d expect it to.
Mysterious postcards from Angelina begin showing up in the mail, Grace’s parents are freaking out with worry, and something BIG is coming to town that will affect everybody who lives there. But all Grace is powerful enough to do is turn leftover meatloaf into pizza.
Fortunately, she’s not alone. She has Team Grace on her side Amanda, Leo, Rory, Tara, David, and Connor know a thing or two about magic and how it works. But none of them are prepared for what’s coming, and none of them know how to stop it. Life in Willow Falls is about to change forever.

 

The Adventures of Tabitha and Sparky by R.W. Deane (Yellow Iris Press)

This is a delightful story of the unlikely friendship between a cat and a dog. A story comprised of poems and adventures. Tabitha is a very curious cat, always eager to find out about things that are often none of her business, which continually gets her into trouble. Sparky, on the other hand, is more sensible and reliable, and between the two of them they share many adventures which teach life long lessons.

Recipe for a mystery

Screen Shot 2014-06-15 at 8.53.53 PMEarlier this month I had a delightful classroom visit with third grade readers who were studying mysteries. I was about to go into a segment on the ingredients of a mystery when I realized these eight- and nine-year-old readers knew exactly what went into a satisfying mystery. Not only had they read a few mysteries as a class (including one of mine in the Hannah West series), they were prepared with questions about plot, setting, character motivation, red herrings, and tracking clues.

case of the lost body from the buddy filesWe talked about how there’s an element of mystery in almost any story. Getting to what makes a novel a true mystery is a bit harder. “Every good book should be suspenseful and should have a question to be answered, but suspense and questions alone don’t make a mystery,” says Dori Hillestad Butler, author of the Edgar Award-winning Buddy Files mystery series. To be classified mystery, she continues, “… the main character needs to follow clues, confront red herrings, and use some basic reasoning skills to solve the mystery. A lot of books that are labeled ‘mystery’ are lacking that. The author just sort of moves the character from one place to the next … the mystery doesn’t flow organically from the character’s actions.”

Not only is Dori an accomplished mystery writer, she also chaired this year’s selection committee for the Edgar Awards’ Best Juvenile Novel. That meant reading and evaluating about 70 middle grade mysteries. Not surprising, what she looks for in a good mystery is exactly what young readers have told me they want in a page-turning story.  They want to see a detective they can identify with who is deciphering clues and following leads; they want to be inside the detective’s head and get a feeling for how to analyze what people are saying, what is true — and what they might be hiding.

When considering mysteries for the Edgars, Dori says, “I wanted to see a main character taking action, following leads, sifting through clues. I wanted to see red herrings. I wanted to see a main character considering the evidence, forming a hypothesis, testing that hypothesis, and actively solving the mystery on his own rather than simply being led to the solution by the author.” Precisely what most of us desire in reading mysteries – and good reminders for those of us writing detective novels.

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Just a portion of a checklist from Scholastic.com to help young readers who are exploring the mystery genre. Click on the image to go to the full PDF.

Scholastic’s Ingredients for a Mystery lesson plan for third- to fifth-graders has been handy for me when talking to young readers. It’s also a useful reminder when drafting and revising to be sure that the recipe’s ingredients are all included, with the proper pacing, mixing, and timing added.

This recipe may seem a bit simple when plotting a novel, but it still proves to keep me on my toes. Do I have the right number of suspects? Who are the witnesses, and what might they know that’s not immediately evident? How is the pacing and timing? Is 90 percent of the action taking place over two days, but the story takes much longer?

If you’re looking for middle grades that include the essential ingredients of a mystery, be sure to keep an eye on the Edgars. Here’s a list of the past 10 years’ winners (and be sure to look at recent finalists, too):

Edgar Award Winners for Best Juvenile Mystery 

  • One Came Home by Amy Timberlake (2014)
  • The Quick Fix by Jack D. Ferraiolo (2013)
  • Icefall by Matthew J. Kirby (2012)
  • The Buddy Files: The Case of the Lost Boy by Dori Hillestad Butler (2011)
  • Closed for the Season by Mary Downing Hahn (2010)
  • The Postcard by Tony Abbott (2009)
  • The Night Tourist by Katherine Marsh (2008)
  • Room One: A Mystery or Two by Andrew Clements (2007)
  • The Boys of San Joaquin by D. James Smith (2006)
  • Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett (2005)

I’d love to hear recommendations for mysteries to add to my summer reading list!