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Published on September 20th, 2010 | by rubyskyepi

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Great Mystery Books for Kids and Young Adults Part 1

Shelves of booksRuby Skye P.I.’s own educational consultant, Lindsay Springer, offers up some thoughts on mystery novels, curriculum and great reads.  This is part 1 of 2:

Although many of us experience nostalgia and sentimentality for the mystery books of our childhood (I still get a warm and fuzzy feeling when I think of Nancy Drew’s nosy and inquisitive ways), for today’s tweens and teens, the genres of mystery and the who-done-it are frequently blended with fantasy, history and science fiction. Young readers of the twenty-first century gravitate towards video-game-like books, often involving witches and wizards, vampires, ghosts, historical intrigue, futuristic dystopias, mythological characters and ordinary children-protagonists in extraordinary situations. Our kids consume fast-paced suspense as quickly as Hailey Skye devoured Ruby’s brownies! The success of The Harry Potter Series, The Percy Jackson & the Olympians Series and, of course, the Twilight saga are a testament to today’s young reader.

Teaching students about genre is an important part of the middle school Language Arts curriculum. This, in conjunction with thinking about the educational possibilities for Ruby Skye P.I., prompted me to do some research (mostly interview based, as I have access to some wonderful readers between the ages of eleven and fourteen) on the best mystery books available for kids and teens. From my research, I have compiled a list of great mysteries for tweens and teens. I hope that educators, parents and young readers alike will find my recommendations useful! In no particular order…

Stones, Zack by William Bell

William Bell is a Canadian author and I use a few of his novels in my classroom. His novels generally take place in Canada and blend history and mystery seamlessly in order to educate (don’t worry, not too much!), entertain and keep readers on the edge of their seats.

Search for the Shadowman by Joan Lowery Nixon

Search for the Shadowman is a mystery for 10-12 year olds about investigating family history. In addition to being a great read, this novel is also an excellent introduction to genealogy and to pursuing Internet research. Also try other titles by this young adult suspense author, including The Other Side of Dark and Playing for Keeps.

Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective by Donald J. Sobol

Often described as the “boy Sherlock Holmes”, the Encyclopedia Brown books are excellent for kids aged 8-11, especially kids who like to outsmart the detective and try to solve the mystery. These books are also great for hesitant readers and boys just love them! Other titles by this author include Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Disgusting Sneakers and Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Mysterious Handprints.

The 39 Clues Series by Rick Riordan et al. (Scholastic)

Truly, a new way to read! The 39 Clues is an interactive mystery series that in addition to the novels, combines online activities, card collecting and the chance to win prizes. This series blends historical facts and figures with suspense to create a series of page-turners. The books follow siblings Amy and Dan Cahill as they compete against other family members to crack clues in order to gain power over one another and, ultimately, the world… Titles include The Maze of Bones, One False Note, The Sword Thief and Beyond the Grave.

The Boxcar Children Series by Gertrude Chandler Warner

Including over one hundred titles, this mystery series, aimed at middle readers (Grades 3-6), follows the escapades of four orphaned children who make a home for themselves in an abandoned boxcar. After being taken in by their grandfather who moves the boxcar to his backyard as a playhouse, the children investigate and solve a variety of mysteries, including The Mystery of the Stolen Music and The Mystery of the Hidden Beach.

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