Mystery, History, and Art

under the egg

I have been reading at a pretty good clip since school ended. I just finished a book called Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald. At first, I thought it was going to be another book with Quirky Sidekicks that seems to be the current trend in juvenile literature. While there are definitely oddball characters, the book is more of an art mystery. It is a combination of From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and The DaVinci Code. Some of the solutions in the story are a little too convenient, but overall, I loved the information about the Renaissance painter, Raphael, World War II, and the Monuments Men. There are a handful of other books that center around family heirloom secrets in order to reach the resolution. I love the scavenger hunt aspect to these books and recommend them for students because they require a ton of critical reading skills to follow the plot.

mystery, history, and art book list pin

  • Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald
  • Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick
  • The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
  • The Maze of Bones by Rick Riordan ( and The 39 Clues series)
  • Conspiracy 365 series by Gabrielle Lord
  • Destiny, Rewritten by Kathryn Fitzmaurice
  • Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett
  • The Shadows by Jacqueline West (The Books of Elsewhere series)
  • We the Children by Andrew Clements (Benjamin Pratt and the Keepers of the School series)
  • The Ring of Rocamadour by Michael D. Beil (The Red Blazer Girls series)
  • Masterpiece by Elise Broach
  • From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
  • The Second Mrs. Giacondo by E.L. Konigsburg
  • Leonardo’s Shadow by Christopher Grey
  • The Sixty-Eight Rooms by Marianne Malone
  • Cecily’s Portrait by Adele Geras (Historical House series)
  • The Blackhope Enigma by Teresa Flavin
  • The Theft & the Miracle by Rebecca Wade

Many of these books are cross listed on my Scavenger Hunt Book List as well as my Fate and Destiny Book List. Obviously, I am drawn to this style of book. What is on your summer stack?

sixty eight rooms

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Listen to It

james and the giant peach

It is time for our annual summer road trip, and we loaded up on audio books from the public library earlier this week. I then had to make a trip back to the library because Mr. Star Wars and Miss Priss listened to the first batch of books on CD in the TV room before we even packed the car.

Audio books are a great addition to long road trips. They keep voice levels low, so everyone can hear the narrator, and it provides a discussion topic for the whole group since everybody listens to the same story (we play our books on CD aloud– no earphones, although, that is an option). All ages can enjoy a story no matter the actual reading level of the book.

We have been listening to audio books for about 6 years. I cannot gush enough about the benefits of audio books. The narrator reads the book with the correct expression and syntax modeling good oral reading skills for a child. If a child follows along in the printed book at the same time he is listening, sight words, vocabulary, writing mechanics, and varied sentence construction are reinforced. When a group listens to an audio book, it tends to prompt more discussion. This will give a child extra practice re-telling a story, identifying conflicts in the story, and making predictions about future events– all of the skills a (good) active reader utilizes.

bunnicula

I posted an audio book recommendation list awhile back. Many of the books I had on my original list are still here. The Magic Treehouse series is still our favorite. Mary Pope Osborne narrates, and her voice works well. The stories are also a good length for our car attention span. Each story is about an hour and a half.

  • Magic Treehouse (any in the series) read by the author, Mary Pope Osborne
  • The Boxcar Children read by Phyllis Newman
  • Little House in the Big Woods (or any Little House book) read by Cherry Jones
  • Tales of a 4th Grade Nothing read by the author, Judy Blume
  • The BFG read by Natasha Richardson
  • James and the Giant Peach read by Jeremy Irons
  • The Bunnicula Collection read by Victor Garber
  • No Talking read by Keith Nobbs
  • Benjamin Pratt & The Keepers of the School: Fear Itself read by Keith Nobbs
  • The Wizard of Oz read by Maureen Lipman
  • The Year of Billy Miller read by Dan Bittner
  • Heavy Hitters (or any in the Game Changers series) read by Fred Berman
  • Ribsy (or any Henry Huggins book) read by Neil Patrick Harris
  • Charlotte’s Web read by the author, E.B. White
  • The 1oo-Year Old Secret (or any in the Sherlock Files series) read by David Pittu

Avoid:

  • A Series of Unfortunate Events read by the author, Lemony Snicket.  (This was probably a bad choice on my part.  Not only was the author’s voice too nasal-y, the book is much darker read aloud, and the content was too old for my children’s ages.)

In my house, we all agree that the narrator is the key to a good audio book. What books have you enjoyed on tape? Who was the narrator?

no talking

 

Follow the Clues

mr lemoncellos library cover

A former student recommended I read Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein because there is a character in the story who has the same last name I do. It took me a few months to get to it, but I finally read it during my spring break.

This book follows a group of characters who are trapped in a library through a scavenger hunt of library knowledge in order to escape. The book becomes a puzzle for the reader too. It taps into your library skills and background knowledge of classic books. The riddles inserted into the story reminded me of a few other books I read and really liked. I had a starter list of this style of books in my Style-Alike book post, but I thought it was time for a dedicated scavenger-hunt-wrapped-in-a-mystery list.

Most titles on the list have the “riddle” element to them, but I also included classic mystery books like Nancy Drew where characters uncover clues to solve the crime without having to decode a puzzle first to reveal the clue.

red blazer girls cover

  • The 7th Level by Jody Feldman
  • Belly Up by Stuart Gibbs
  • Benjamin Pratt & Keepers of the School series by Andrew Clements
  • Chasing Vermeer (and others) by Blue Balliett
  • Conspiracy 365 series by Gabrielle Lord (must be read in order)
  • Floors series by Patrick Carman
  • Gollywhopper Games by Jody Feldman
  • Hardy Boys by Franklin W. Dixon
  • The Maze of Bones by Rick Riordan (and The 39 Clues series)
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society series by Trenton Lee Stewart
  • Nancy Drew by Carolyn Keene
  • Red Blazer Girls series by Michael D. Beil
  • The Secret Series by Pseudonymous Bosch
  • The Sherlock Files series by Tracy Barrett
  • The Sisters Grimm series by Michael Buckley
  • The Teddy Bear Habit by James Lincoln Collier (older publication)
  • Theodore Boone Detective series by John Grisham
  • Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage
  • The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

floors cover

Mysteries are actually a great book style for younger readers (1st through 3rd grade) because students have to maintain plot details from earlier in the book to understand any resolutions that happen later in the book. There are many series for this lower reading level that are popular. Reading multiple books from a series strengthens reading because they typically follow the same plot pattern in each book. This gets repetitive for an adult but actually helps improve reading skills in kids because they can begin to more accurately anticipate what will happen next, which makes the story easier to follow and remember.

  • The Adventures of the Bailey School Kids by Debbie Dadey and Marcia T. Jones
  • A to Z Mysteries by Ron Roy
  • The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner (I like the ones by the original author the best, 1-19)
  • Encyclopedia Brown by Donald J. Sobol
  • Hank the Cowdog by John R. Erickson
  • Jigsaw Jones by James Preller
  • The Magic Treehouse by Mary Pope Osborne

jigsaw jones book cover

 

Have you read any good mysteries lately?

 

It’s Fate

tangle of knots

During one of our icy snow days, I read a new book called A Tangle of Knots by Lisa Graff. It wasn’t the best book I have ever read but what did stick with me were the connections between the characters. The quirky characters rent rooms in a run down building without knowing they all have a relationship to each other. As the book progresses, little clues are revealed that help the reader solve the mystery about how the characters’ lives intersect. By the end, we know how and why the characters were meant to be together.

Holes

A Tangle of Knots made me think about other books I know that have this fate element to them. Books that weave character stories together to create a clever puzzle of relationships. It is a little bit like a modern (and shorter) version of Great Expectations by Dickens who always intertwined lives so cleverly. Here are the books I like that have an element of fate or destiny or secret connections.

  • The Candymakers by Wendy Mass
  • Destiny, Rewritten by Kathryn Fitzmaurice
  • Holes by Louis Sachar
  • The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
  • Remarkable by Elizabeth Foley
  • The Secret Tree by Natalie Standiford
  • A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd
  • Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage
  • The View from Saturday by E. L. Konigsburg
  • The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
  • When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
  • Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick

I just ordered The Great Unexpected by Sharon Creech, which I think may belong on this list too. Can anyone confirm?

destiny rewritten

The Gateway Book

MindsinBloomButton2

I contributed a guest post to an upper elementary teaching blog, Minds in Bloom. The post is about helping kids find their gateway book and then using that gateway book to generate spin off books that build a love of reading. See my survival book list or the guest post for an explanation of a gateway book.

My favorite part of the article is the Book Trails. This is a list of books that can be generated from one starter book. Check out the post to see how to build your own book trail!

candy factory book trail

Here is a sample book trail for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Create a list of related books to keep a child reading.