Digging Up Detectives

“Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous to be understood.” —Mary Oliver 

Those readers who know me, know I do not have any pets, but I do have a “pet” project. My pet project is reading new children’s mysteries to recommend to everyone I know. I check them out at the library. I read literary blogs that review children’s books, always looking for the words “mystery,” “detective,” or “suspense” in reviews. Of course, I love to read varied books written for middle grade and YA readers! Recently, I wrote an article about some titles I‘ve read in 2019.

Because I love to write children’s mysteries as well as read the newest ones, I enjoyed a freebie I picked up at The ALA conference here is Washington, DC in June. Digging Up Detectives by Jacqueline West is two books in one with the second book serving as a guide for aspiring mystery writers, especially for young writers. Although, I am not a young writer, I found the guide helpful to me, too.

Several of the books I am recommending in this post were advanced copies I was lucky enough to read before release dates. Now you know why I chose the title of this month’s blog!

         Exciting news for me:  I have been asked to pen a continuing column about middle grade mysteries for my writers’ association’s newsletter. These newsletter readers are adult cozy writers who may not be familiar with children’s literature, so I am sharing what I know about children’s mystery readers of all ages.

Also, I will be a judge for the best middle grade fiction published in 2019 selected by CYBILS, a large group of children’s literary bloggers. Winners to be announced in the spring.

Some of the books I read are scary, thrillers, adventures, or may be set in fantastical places. The blending of the genres doesn’t take away from my enjoyment of the mystery and suspense elements.You may not read the same type of books I choose, but I highly recommend you start, because you will find tightly written plots, intriguing clues, well-developed and complex characters, and mysteries you want to solve along with the dynamic detectives.

Here are creative titles I enjoyed this summer. Aren’t you curious to read Jada Sly, Artist and Spy by Sherri Winston; Two Can Keep a Secret…If One of Us Is Dead by the YA author Karen McManus; Guest: A Changeling Tale by Maryland author Mary Downing Hahn; Kazu Jones and the Denver Dognappers by debut author Shauna Holyoak; and The Multiplying Mysteries of Mount Ten by Krista Van Dolzer?  Wildfire  by Rodman Philbrick, a favorite author from my past, I highly recommend for male readers! 

A British middle grade writer I encourage you to try is Robin Stevens. She was nominated for an Edgar for First Class Murder, which reminded me of Murder on the Orient Express! Her 2019 Wells and Wong mystery, Top Marks for Murder, part of a series set in a British boarding school, combines mystery with school stories. Yes, there is often a murder in her exciting mysteries!

Maybe some think murder is too heavy for the younger set of eight to twelve. An interview on one of the literary blogs explained: “I would say that I don’t believe that there is a topic too heavy for middle grade. I think the beautiful thing about books is that we need all of them.” This quotation from Laurel Snyder, the author of Orphan Island and My Jasper June, released last month

We can all look forward to more mysteries to be released this fall in my favorite subgenre of mystery and detective stories. One title I am waiting to read is the third in a humorous mystery series called The Real McCoys. Matthew Swanson is the author of this highly illustrated series, which his wife Robbi Behr fills with imaginative drawings. At first, you think these long books are graphic novels but readers are in for surprises on each page as we see Moxie and Milton McCoy come alive. The Real McCoys: Wonder Undercover will be on the shelves on November 5th!

Matthew Swanson explains the lure of why he writes Middle Grade mysteries. “When Moxie showed up and declared herself to be the world’s greatest fourth-grade detective, I felt obliged to create a problem for her to solve. Along the way, I discovered that mysteries are universal blueprints for helping kids figure out the constant confusion of everyday life—with all its puzzles and clues and red herrings and surprising twists. My hope is that by following Moxie’s misadventures, kids will see that no one gets it right all the time; that occasional dead-ends are best met with a sense of humor; and that the surest way to solve the mystery of the moment is sheer persistence. And enthusiasm. And by relying on whatever help presents itself, even if comes in the form of one’s boring-as-a-butter knife little brother.” 

         Please join me in digging up dynamic detectives for our children, grandchildren, students, and readers of all ages everywhere. Follow the theme that Children’s Book Week publicized last May: “Read Now, Read Forever!” If you discover more 2019 children’s and YA mysteries you read or are writing, ones you think are eligible for the Agatha Best Children’s and YA mystery fiction for 2019, share with all of us.

Happy Reading in 2019!

Part of this blog were published in the October First Draft newsletter for Guppies.

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