Posts Tagged puzzles

Clues, ciphers and puzzles, oh my!

Some people get excited for summer on the beach or at the lake. They look forward to that festive backyard barbecue or wild all day pool party. Or maybe it’s just having some unstructured time where fun is the only destination. For me, summer is made for reading mysteries. I’ll take it all –amateur sleuths, cops, detectives, police procedurals, legal thrillers, suspense, a fun cozy, private eyes, historical, whatever. Serve it up. I’m ready.

And do you know where you can find some of the best twisty mystery being written today? If you guessed middle grade, you win! Because I write in this genre, I’ve had the best excuse to dive deep and read a lot. Three of my favorites are series focused on solving clues, ciphers and puzzles. I’m betting these will keep your middle grade readers happy straight through summer.

James Ponti’s T.O.A.S.T series follows Florian, the only kid on the FBI Director’s speed dial, and his best friend Margaret. Together, they use TOAST – Theory of All Small Things – to solve mysteries both small (where to sit on the first day of school) and big (solving crimes that stump the FBI).

Clever sleuthing, authentic friendship, humor and lots of thrills, these books are sure to please. Look for the third in the series coming in September.

 

 

 

Publishers Weekly describes Jennifer Chambliss Bertman’s Book Scavenger series as ‘full of heart and replete with challenging ciphers for readers to decode, [this] debut is a literary cousin to classic puzzlers like The Westing Game.’ Emily and her best friend James are fans of the game Book Scavenger, an online sensation created by Emily’s literary idol Garrison Griswold, where books are hidden in cities all over the country and clues to find them are reveled through puzzles.

I love how the author uses San Francisco as a setting and the sweet friendship between Emily and James. As they race against the clock to solve a series of clues, your middle grade reader will be on the edge of her seat. This three part series (so far) makes for great summer reading.

 

Chris Grabenstein’s Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library series is pure kooky Willy Wonka-like fun. When Kyle learns that the world’s most famous game maker, Luigi Lemoncello, has designed the town’s new library and is having an invitation-only lock-in on opening night, he’s determined to be there. But the tricky part isn’t getting into the library—it’s getting out. Because when morning comes, the doors stay locked. Kyle and the other kids must solve every clue and figure out every secret puzzle to find the hidden escape route.

Clever puzzles, a race against time and lots of humor, this three part series will keep your middle grade reader busy all summer.

 

Summer Reads = Summer Fun!

Summer is a time when I feel energized and creative, basking in the longer daylight hours and a different kind of vibe, even though I work at home and the actual calendar doesn’t change that much around here.

If your kid is the kind who likes to make and do in summer, as mine was (she’s grown now, but this is how I remember her middle grade summers, and my own), here is a post to scratch your kiddos’ summer activity itch. Of course, you might like to join in the fun, too.

I have to say right up front that this was not my (fantastic!) idea – here’s a big shout out to our own Annabelle Fisher for the inspiration, and to many of our members for chiming in with great ideas to share with you.

Like to cook? These reads might also make you hungry to make food.

Lisa Schroeder’s cupcake books, including It’s Raining Cupcakes, might inspire you to make some…

The Truth About Twinkie Pie, by Kat Yeh, is full of recipes.

A Tangle of Knots, by Lisa Graff, is also filled with things I want to cook. 

Pixie Piper and the Matter of the Batter, by our own Annabelle Fisher (including a recipe for magical “reversing cake” and other fun things!).

How about writing to authors?

Dear Mr. Henshaw, by Beverly Cleary gave adult me the push to write a favorite author, actually.

Love that Dog, by Sharon Creech is another that inspires action in the form of writing.

Want to play with paper engineering?

Origami Yoda and Tom Angleberger’s other Origami books result in lots of paper play.

Richard Merrill’s Fantastic Press-Out Flying Birds  is a blast (I’m giving this one an extra shout-out – this fellow SCBWI member and Dover Publications author is also my big brother!).

Books about science and nature and those that get us out of doors can also spark inspiration for projects and action.

Mixed Up Files member Jacqueline Houtman pointed me to Elaine Vickers’ blog, which features a ton of great activities for middle graders. Jacqueline’s own book, The Reinvention of Edison Thomas was featured there, and reading this book about a science geek might prompt a visit to find something to do, too.

Nature sketching and birdwatching are featured in The Someday Birds, by Sally Pia.

One Mixed Up Files member described Laurel Snyder’s Orphan Island as being ”sort of about a group of kids camping on their very own island.”

The Phineas MacGuire books by Francis O’Roark Dowell feature science activities in the back matter, and a website to visit for more at: http://gophineas.com/. My students loved our read aloud of Phineas in the library.

Roseanne Parry, still another Mixed Up Files member, wrote Turn of the Tide, which features geocaching.

And Explore Forces and Motion, by Jen Swanson (still another Mixed Up Filer), includes 25 fun activities for kids to do with science.

Community service as summertime action?

Our own Michele Weber Hurwitz says, “My book, The Summer I Saved the World in 65 Days, doesn’t exactly feature a craft project, but the main character, Nina, does a project involving 65 good things she does for her neighbors and family, one for each day of her summer vacation. It’s been a popular summer read for students who then do a community service project when they return to school.

Lisa Graff’s The Great Treehouse War Is about a bunch of kids who stage a sit-in, and then some…

Plus, there are always mysteries to solve and other fun things to do!

I’m intrigued by Annabelle Fisher’s recommendation of The Puzzler’s Mansion, by Eric Berlin, which she describes as having brainteasers and interactive puzzles in it.

Chasing Vermeer and the others in Blue Balliet’s architectural mystery series feature tangrams and puzzles to solve. I had several students who made their own tangrams after reading these books.

Mr. Lemoncello’s Library Olympics, by Chris Grabenstein, is another that is jam-packed with stuff to do and try.

A Snicker of Magic, by Natalie Lloyd is filled with oodles of stuff to do, too…

What books inspire you to dive in and then get out to have some fun in summer?