For the past six months, we have been participating in the Children's Classics Mystery Challenge, a marvelous idea which was initiated and run by Jennifer and Carrie and their friends at the excellent 5 Minutes for Books blog.
In looking back at the books reviewed here as part of that challenge, I find that it was very much like the old rhyme about weddings, in that we offered "something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue."
Something old: my favorite of all the books I read for this challenge would still have to be "The Westing Game," by Ellen Raskin, the winner of the 1979 Newbery Medal for excellence in children's literature. It has gone out of print - and I cry "SHAME" on the publishers, although there seems to be a fair number of used copies available. "The Westing Game" is a book that adults can enjoy every bit as much as the 9-to-12-year-old audience. Of the children's mysteries I read, it is the closest to a traditional mystery for adults, with fair and unbelievably clever clues. I can't imagine why a young reader wouldn't be hooked on mysteries by a book like this.
Something new: for the past two months, I've been talking about this year's award winners, "The Hanging Hill," by Chris Grabenstein, which won Malice Domestic's Agatha Award for the best juvenile mystery, and "Closed for the Season," by Mary Downing Hahn, which walked off with the best juvenile Edgar from the Mystery Writers of America. It's good to know that exciting new mysteries for children (and adults) are still being written today, and these books should encourage and entertain kids who may be new to mysteries.
Something borrowed: well, a lot of the books I read for this challenge were borrowed from, and recommended by, my wife, who is a school librarian in a K-to-8 school, and those grades make up a pretty good target range for young readers who would enjoy these books. Her advice, as always, has proven to be invaluable.
Something blue: OK, I couldn't resist, as I really had two that fit, both pretty new: "The Other Side of Blue," by Valerie O. Patterson is a well-written, rather haunting book that combines a mystery with a sort of coming-of-age novel. There's a lot here for teen-agers to like. Also, of course, there was "Chasing Vermeer," by Blue Balliett, a fine art-theft story with a lot of unusual twists and wrinkles.
It has been a fun ride. My thanks again to the folks at 5 Minutes for Books, who came up with this idea and who let me be a part of it. Thanks also to all the other bloggers who participated in the challenge and came up with their own lists of "must-read" mysteries for children.