It is mystery week in my classroom. I have one week left before I end my long call reserve teaching gig. (end of our semester is Friday) So when we returned from a very cold winter break we decided to spend two weeks reading mysteries. We are having fun with reading! (We are also reading non fiction – research on different states in the the United States but that is social studies right? not reading!)
There are so many wonderful new mysteries out now but I was stuck with using what I could find in the classroom. The kids are enjoying them even if they have been hanging around for a few years. Mysteries are just plain fun. I wish I had had the funds to bring in some new material but I did go off to read and watch some mysteries on my own. I am not a TV watcher but found the series called Sherlock this weekend and had great fun with a modern day Sherlock and Holmes. I also finished a Net Galley’s pre release copy of The Dead in their Vaulted Arches – a Flavia de Luce Mystery. It will be released later this month- no wait it is tomorrow. What a great mystery read.
This book by Alan Bradley falls into the YA and Adult fiction section. We have 11 year old Flavia de Luce at the train station waiting for the body of her long lost mother. With in the first few pages there is a murder, at least we think it might be a murder. We have so many people showing up to honor her mother and so many questions. Why did this woman leave her three children, especially when one of them was really just born? Why did Churchill show up to honor this lady? Who are the good guys and who should be be watching out for?
Bradley gives us the family history the de Luces in this book. It is also a bit of a coming of age book for Flavia. The family secrets are revealed and they are not what I would have guessed at all.
It would be a great book to share with a class of 8th graders on up and explore what it really takes to write a mystery. Bradley includes the puzzles, the good and evil, and the red herrings. It is all there to enjoy. I am excited to see what he plans on doing now. Will we see Flavia grow into the detective that she wants to be? How will her family handle the changes that are about to come for this young chemist and sleuth? What new adventures await our young detective as she – oops can’t say any more don’t want any spoilers here. You will just have to do some reading to find out what is going on in this young ladies life. (You can read this as a stand alone if you haven’t read his other books but it is more fun if you have a bit of background from his other four books.)
I also read Al Capone Does my Homework by Gennifer Choldenko this week. This is a great middle grade read and again one of three Al Capone books. Gennifer is a great student of Alcatraz and the convicts that lived on the island in the 1930’s. She does an excellent job of bring history into her adventure novel.
This was not really a mystery in the true sense of the genre but there are puzzles and lots of questions to be answered. There are good guys and bad guys and a few red herrings as well.
We follow Moose and friends as they live with their parents on Alcatraz because that is where they work. There is an unexplained fire, money appearing and disappearing and lots of blame focused on Moose’s older sister who is autistic. It appears it is easiest to blame someone you don’t understand.
I have to admit I started the book and was not really excited about it. I was not sure she could write something fresh after her first book. Ok so I was wrong – or I just like to read.
It wasn’t long before I was wondering who set the fire? How were these kids going to gain information from the convicts? And how was Moose going to convince others it was not his sister who started the fire when he wasn’t so sure himself? A fun read and a nice mystery/adventure story for 3-5 grade students.
As a teacher this one can be used to have discussions about:
- how real life events can be woven into a fictional story
- what happens when we make assumptions about people we don’t know
- what happens when we don’t tell the truth
- what happens when friends stand together to help each other
This next week I have two YA books I hope to read: