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News in Youth Services

Monday, May 7, 2018

Mysterious May

I don't know about you, but I love a good mystery. May just seems to be a perfect month to celebrate mysteries.  It's still a mystery of what the weather will be like - do I need a jacket or can I go without one?  Will the Cubs or White Sox go to the World Series this year?

A good mystery has five essential elements.  The first is characters.  The main character should be well developed so that the reader can visualize the person.  This character determines the way the mystery will develop and is usually the person who will solve it.  The second essential element is the setting.  Everyday settings are best in a mystery because they help the reader picture the scene.  Now comes the plot.  The plot is the actual story around which the book is based.  It should have a clear beginning, middle and end, with lots of description and suspense to keep the reader interested.  You need a good problem in order to have a mystery.  Typically problems are about a crime and why it occurred.  The author provides clues to assist both the reader and the main character in solving the puzzle.  Finally, there is always a solution.  It's important that the solution be believable and that the author includes the necessary clues for finding out the solution to the story.

Mysteries were my favorite genre as a child (and I still enjoy them as an adult).  My favorite series were  Nancy Drew and  The Hardy Boys series.  I enjoyed searching for clues with Nancy or Frank and Joe Hardy, hoping I would solve the mystery before they did.  Then of course, there was Encyclopedia Brown. His mysteries were fun because they were written as short cases and always ended with asking the reader a question.  The reader had to make a prediction about the mystery's solution and then turn to the back of the book to see if they were correct.  These books have stood the test of time and are still found on library shelves.  Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys have even been turned into graphic novels, attracting the attention of younger generations.

A reason mysteries are so great is that they are written for all ages.  Children in kindergarten and first grade can enjoy titles such as Young Cam Jansen by David A. Adler, which is about a young girl with a photographic memory; or The North Police by Scott Sonneborn which is set in the North Pole and has police elves solving crimes.  Second and third graders love the A-Z Mysteries by Ron Roy.  This series features a mystery for every letter of the alphabet. Children ages 8-12 love the 39 Clues series, which is written by such authors as Margaret Peterson Haddix, Gordon Korman, Rick Riordan and others.  39 Clues chronicles the adventures of Amy and Dan Cahill, two siblings who discover that their family has been the most influential family in history.  They are on a quest to find the 39 Clues, which are ingredients to a serum which will create the most powerful person on Earth.  Don't forget the famous Baudelaire siblings in Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket.  In this series, the children search to find out what happened to their parents while trying to outsmart Count Olaf from stealing their inheritance.  Want an award winning mystery?  Try the Newberry Award winning The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin.  This story is set in Chicago and it follows the story line of relatives competing for inheritance (sound familiar?).

There are lots of mysteries out there. They can be historical, funny, suspenseful or just a story.  Check out NoveList K-8 to help you search for the right mystery for you. Happy sleuthing!

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