Last week I fessed up to loving mysteries.
So here’s a bit of a roundup of books that are mysteries or have a wonderful dose of mysterious elements without being full blown who-dunnits:
The Case of the Weird Blue Chicken by Doreen Cronin
This one will appeal to the younger elementary grades with lots of silliness to keep them giggling. We have a very keen foursome of chicks and one wry dog to find out what happened to their client’s, the titular ‘weird blue chicken’, birdhouse. The formatting for this chapter books will help counter its length for young readers with large print, illustrations and lots of white space. Recommended for grades 1-3.
The Marvels by Brian Selznic
This one is the most recent publication by Selznick once again employing his brilliant combination of text and pictorial narratives. Don’t be daunted by the size of the book as the first 400 pages fly by. This part of the story is told through illustrations about a shipwrecked boy in the 1700s who is rescued and becomes attached to a theatre in London. His story connects to a family of actors and their trials and tribulations over the years. Part two is a contemporary story of a runaway boy trying to track down an unknown uncle. The uncle lives in a very odd house that seems inhabited by people from days-long-gone-by. Lots of questions but with answers that are slowly revealed to us. Both mystery and mysterious elements will hold you to the end. Terrific read for grades 4-6.
The Mysterious Howling (The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place) by Maryrose Wood
I’m late to the party on this series but am glad that I did eventually get to it. I listened to the audio-book version of this title and thought it very well done. IT has a bit of a gothic feel with a young nanny employed by a mysterious lord to look after his wards in a country mansion. The three children have been raised by wolves with no clues as to who their parents were or how they came to live in the forest connected to the mansion. Who are they? And what is their connection to the nanny? Lots of very humorous bits. Recommended for grades 4-8.
Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley
Another good read for upper elementary grades. This one has lots of mysterious elements peppered throughout the story. Micah is desperately worried about his very sick grandfather who he lives with but is hopeful that the mysterious Lightbender from the Circus Mirandus will be able to offer a cure. The thing is, the Circus Mirandus isn’t your everyday circus and is only accessible to those who believe in magic. The Lightbender is someone the grandfather had met while a little boy. How can that be? A gripping story about illusions, faith, and acceptance of the inevitable. Recommended for grades 4-6.
Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead
This one is mostly about growing up and finding were you fit in as relationships are redefined. Three girlfriends work to keep their friendship strong and develop new relationships as they start grade 7. The writing and characters are beautifully done (typical of Stead’s books) but there is a secondary story that is woven between that of the girls’, of an unknown person who also is struggling with friendships and making good decisions. Who is this person? What has she/he done? Not a real ‘mystery’ as such but again with mysterious elements to keep you guessing. Recommended for grades 6-9.
I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest
Losing her best friend in grade 5 in a terrible accident has not be easy to get over for May and years after the event, she still suffers the loss. But the image of a cartoon princess wielding a katana-sword and looking very much like the comic book character the two girls developed for themselves begins appearing in random places around Seattle. May is convinced that this is a message to her from Libby. Lots of mystery and action here to keep readers engaged. Recommended for grades 7 and up.
Coaltown Jesus by Ron Koertge
A short, story-in-verse novel about Walker dealing with the death of his eldest brother. To help him process his grief, Jesus (yes, that Jesus) shows up to help him deal with the pain. I love the characterization developed for Jesus as an understanding, compassionate man who really digs his red trainers. The interaction between Walker and Jesus is pretty fun (is this for real? How come He’s here? If He’s here why can’t he fix things? etc.) and keeps the pain of grief from becoming too much. I would recommend this one for grades 9 and up.
Jackaby by William Ritter
A fun coincidence about this book; I recently came a across a series of adult mysteries with many similar features to this young adult novel. An interesting combination of detective work, mystery and the paranormal. It’s the 1800’s and young Abigail Rook arrives in America somewhat on the lam from her parents, looking for a life of adventure. Enter R.F. Jackaby, a Sherlockian-type detective with the unusual aptitude for recognizing elements of the supernatural in a local crime spree. Lots of action and unusual characters to keep readers entertained. Oh, and if this appeals to you check out the Peter Grant series by Ben Aaronovitch for a contemporary twist. Apparently, London is rife with paranormal activity whatever the era.