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    July 11, 2014: Apply for a Thurber House residency!

    Thurber House has a Children’s Writer-in-Residence program for middle-grade authors each year and  guidelines and application form for the 2015 residency were just released.

    This unique residency has been in existence since 2001, offering  an opportunity for authors to have time to work on their writing in a fully furnished apartment, in the historic boyhood home of author and humorist, James Thurber. Deadline is October 31, 2014. For details, go to READ MORE

    July 10, 2014:

    Spread MG books in unexpected places 7/19
    Drop a copy of your own book or of another middle-grade favorite in a public place on July 19 -- and some lucky reader will stumble upon it.
    Ginger Lee Malacko is spearheading this Middle Grade Bookbomb (use the hashtag #mgbookbomb in social media) -- much in the spirit of Operation Teen Book Drop.  Read more ...

June 16, 2014:
Fizz, Boom, Read: Summer reading 2014

Hundreds of public libraries across the U.S. are celebrating reading this summer with  the theme Fizz, Boom, Read! Find out more about this year's collaborative summer reading program and check out suggested booklists and activities. Read more ...
 

April 30, 2014:
Join the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign and help change the world

The conversation on diversity in children's books has grown beyond book creators and gate keepers to readers and book buyers. What can you do? Take part in the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign May 1 though 3 on Tumblr and Twitter and in whatever creative ways you can help spread the word to take action. Read more ….

April 11, 2014:
Fall 2014 Children's Sneak Peek
A peek at forthcoming middle grade books (as well as picture books and YA books) in a round-up from Publisher's Weekly. First printed in the February 22 issue, but now available online. Time to add to your to-read list. Read more ...

April 9, 2014:
How many Newbery winners have you read?
You could make a traditional list of all the Newbery Medal Award-winning Children's Books you've read, but there's something so satisfying when you check them off and get a final tally on this BuzzFeed quiz. Read more ...

March 28, 2014:
Middle Grade fiction is hot at 2014 Bologna Children's Book Fair

For the second year in a row, publishers are clamoring for middle-grade, reporters Publishers Weekly. "I’ve been coming [to Bologna] for 12 to 15 years, and I’ve never had as many European publishers asking for middle-grade," said Steven Chudney of the Chudney Agency. Read more ...

February 14, 2014:
Cybils Awards announced
Ultra by David Carroll (Scholastic Canada) wins the Cybil for middle grade fiction; Lockwood & Co: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud (Disney Hyperion) wins for Speculative Fiction. Read more.

January 27, 2014: And the Newbery Medal goes to ...
Kate DiCamillo won the Newbery Medal for "Flora & Ulysses"; Rita Williams-Garcia won the Coretta Scott King Author award for "P.S. Be Eleven." Newbery Honor awards to authors Vince Vawter, Amy Timberlake, Kevin Henkes and Holly Black. For all the exciting ALA Youth Media Award News ... READ MORE

November 12, 2013:
Vote in the GoodReads semifinal round

Readers' votes have narrowed the middle-grade semifinals down to 20 titles. Log in to your GoodReads account and vote for your favorite middle-grade (and in other categories, of course). Read more ...

November 9, 2013:
Publishers Weekly Top Children's Books of 2013

Middle-grade and young adult titles selected by the editors of Publishers Weekly as their top picks of the year. Let the season of "top ten books" begin! Read more ...

October 14, 2013:
Middle Shelf: Cool Reads for Kids debuts January 2014

Shelf Media Group, publisher of Shelf Unbound indie book review magazine, will launch a new free digital-only publication for middle-grade readers. The debut issue features interviews with such notable authors as Margaret Peterson Haddix and Chris Grabenstein as well as reviews, excerpts, and more. Middle Shelf will be published bi-monthly beginning in January 2014.
Read more ...

September 19, 2013: Writer-in-Residence program at Thurber House

Dream of time and space to focus on your own writing project? Applications now being accepted (11/1/2013 deadline) for The Thurber House Residency in Children's Literature, a month-long retreat in the furnished third-floor apartment of Thurber House in Columbus, Ohio. Read more ...

September 18, 2013: Vermont College of Fine Arts Scholarship opportunity

Barry Goldblatt Literary launches The Angela Johnson Scholarship, a talent-based grant for writers of color attending the MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults program at VCFA. Up to two $5,000 grants will be awarded each year. Read more ....

September 16, 2013:
National Book Awards longlist for youth literature

For the first time, the NBA is presenting lists of 10 books/authors on the longlist in each category. The 2013 young adult literature list includes five middle grade novels and five YA. Read more ...

Sept. 13, 2013: Spring preview
Check out Publishers Weekly roundup of upcoming children's books to be published in spring 2014. Read more...

August 21, 2013:
Want to be a Cybils Award Judge?

Middle grade categories are fiction, speculative fiction, nonfiction. Applications due August 31! Read more ...

August 19, 2013:
S&S and BN reach a deal
Readers will soon be able to find books from Simon & Schuster at Barnes & Noble. The bookstore chain was locked in a disagreement with the publisher over how much it was willing to pay for books. Read more ...

August 6, 2013:
NPR's 100 Must-Reads for Kids
NPR's Backseat Book Club asked listeners to nominate their favorite books for readers ages 9 to 14. More than 2,000 people nominated titles, and a panel of Newbery authors brought the list to 100. Most are middle grade books. Read more ...

 
July 2, 2013:
Penguin & Random House Merger

The new company, Penguin Random House, will control more than 25 percent of the trade book market in the United States. On Monday, the newly formed company began to take shape, only hours after a middle-of-the-night announcement that the long-planned merger had been completed. Read more ...

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  • It’s a Mystery To Me

    Book Lists

    illustration by olart.ollie

    Every book has a mystery in it.

    Don’t believe me?  Pick up the nearest title.  I grabbed a fantasy: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.   It may be about a boy going to a school for wizards, but Harry and his friends spend a good deal of the book figuring out the mystery of what is on the third floor of Hogwarts.

    “Hey, that’s not fair,” you say.  “That book really is mainly about the mystery of the Sorcerer’s Stone.”  Fair enough.  Let’s try a classic instead: Charlotte’s Web.  It’s a book about friendship, right?  But—aha!—that friendship starts with a little mystery.   Wilbur hears a tiny voice promising to be his friend, but because it’s dark he can’t see who’s talking.  Though he searches for clues the next morning, he can’t solve the mystery until Charlotte introduces herself.

    Some books, like Charlotte’s Web, have only a small mysterious element to them, but there are plenty that are mainly about the whodunit.  These books are clumped together into what we call the mystery genre.

    But what books fall under this genre?  Actually, that’s a hard question to answer.  Every person has a different definition of what books are considered part of the mystery genre.  This is probably because, as I mentioned before, every book has a mystery hiding in its pages. Under the mystery umbrella you can find puzzlers, crime and detective fiction, suspense and thrillers, even humor or horror.  Most have contemporary settings, but there are historical mysteries, too.  There are also fantasy mysteries, sci-fi mysteries and paranormal mysteries.  There is just about any type of mystery you can think of because—say it with me—every book has a mystery somewhere in it.

    I’ve done my own sleuthing and compiled a list of ten must-read middle-grade mysteries.  They are:


    CHASING VERMEER

    by Blue Balliett

    Calder and Petra become friends and then set off to solve the mystery of a stolen piece of Vermeer’s artwork.  Calder’s fascination with pentominoes (math puzzle pieces) is one of the most interesting and clever things about this mystery. Other books in this series…


    THE NAME OF THIS BOOK IS SECRET

    by Pseudonymous Bosch

    I wish I could tell you about Cass and Max-Earnest, who find the journal of a missing magician, or about how they learn what the mysterious Symphony of Smells is.  I really wish I could.  But I can’t.  It’s a secret.  Other books in this series…


    THE LADY GRACE MYSTERIES: ASSASSIN

    by Patricia Finney writing as Grace Cavendish

    Grace Cavendish is a lady-in-waiting at the court of Queen Elizabeth I, but she solves mysteries while no one is looking. In this book, one of Grace’s suitors is killed, and she must find a way to prove that the man she gives her hand to is not the killer. Other books in this series…


    FROM THE MIXED-UP FILES OF MRS. BASIL E. FRANKWEILER

    by E.L. Konigsburg

    Claudia decides to run away from home, but she needs somewhere to run away to.  So she and her brother, Jamie, decide to hide out in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  While living there, they come across a mystery surrounding an angel statue purchased by the museum.


    THEODOSIA AND THE SERPENTS OF CHAOS

    by R.L. LeFevers

    Theodosia spends most of her time at the Museum of Legends and Antiquities where her parents work.  And it’s a good thing, too, because only she can see the ancient curses still attached to the Egyptian artifacts.  When her mom brings home a cursed amulet, Theodosia is thrust in the middle of a battle between secret societies.  Other books in this series…


    THE WESTING GAME

    by Ellen Raskin

    Sam Westing has sixteen heirs, and after his death all of them are summoned for the reading of his will.  There they are divided into eight pairs, each pair is given a different clue, and all are challenged to solve the mystery of who killed Sam Westing.  Whomever solves the mystery inherits his millions.


    THE 39 CLUES: THE MAZE OF BONES

    by Rick Riordan

    At their grandmother’s funeral, Amy and Dan Cahill learn they are members of the most powerful family in the world.  Their grandmother’s will offers a challenge to all family members: find the 39 Clues to secure the family’s power.  But only one team can win the challenge (and the power), so Amy and Dan find themselves in an international race against the rest of the family.  Other books in this series…


    TWO MINUTE MYSTERIES

    by Donald Sobol

    Each mystery is short but contains all the clues needed to solve the puzzle.  Can you figure it out without checking the solution in the back? This book is a great way for budding detectives to stretch their minds and see if they have what it takes to be great sleuths.  See more and still more…


    WHEN YOU REACH ME

    by Rebecca Stead

    Miranda’s life revolves around Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time.  But when she discovers mysterious notes from someone who seems to know the future and claims to want to save her life, she spends large amounts of time watching the homeless lunatic her mom calls the laughing man as she tries to find the connection between her life and the notes.


    THE MYSTERIOUS BENEDICT SOCIETY

    by Trenton Lee Stewart

    Reynie, Sticky, Kate and Constance are the four clever children who make up the Mysterious Benedict Society.  Their first mission: infiltrate the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened and find out what the evil Mr. Curtain is up to.  And once they do, they must use their special skills together to stop him.  Other books in this series…


    Search out your own favorite middle-grade mysteries and share with me what you find.   And make sure you investigate our Fifth Summer Giveaway, where three awesome MG books are up for grabs.

    But while you’re sleuthing, do me a favor.  If you happen to come across a book with no mystery anywhere in it, don’t tell me.  I don’t want to know.

    *****

    Elissa Cruz’s life is full of toys and papers and books and kids, and because of it she solves mysteries on a daily basis.  Important ones, too, like where the missing car keys are, or who ate the last piece of cake.  Her first book, a light and fun middle-grade mystery, is currently on submission.

    14 Comments

    14 Comments

    1. Laura Marcella  •  Aug 13, 2010 @9:03 am

      Encyclopedia Brown! I loved those when I was a kid. One of my friend’s kids recently gave me a couple to re-read. That sure was fun!

    2. Sherrie Petersen  •  Aug 13, 2010 @9:17 am

      How funny — I didn’t think I read a lot of mystery and yet I’ve read half of the books on this list and one is in my TBR pile! I did read a lot of mystery as a kid. I guess you never outgrow it :)

    3. Kimberley Griffiths Little  •  Aug 13, 2010 @10:03 am

      I adored mysteries as a kid. It’s mostly what I read: Nancy Drew. Phyllis Whitney. Ellen Raskin. Then in college, I went through an Agatha Christie phase. Great suggestions, Elissa!

    4. Okie  •  Aug 13, 2010 @5:08 pm

      Thanks for this great list…I’ve been looking for some other cool books to pick up for my kids (and thus also for myself)

    5. Okie  •  Aug 13, 2010 @5:10 pm

      Oh…and of the 10, I’ve read and loved 4 of them…so I’m feeling at least moderately cool. ;)

    6. Amie Borst  •  Aug 13, 2010 @9:24 pm

      great post elissa! my eldest just purchased the second book in THE MYSTERIOUS BENEDICT SOCIETY today. and my middle daughter is reading 39 CLUES (ok, and HARRY POTTER). i’ll definately mention the other books on this list to them!

    7. Elissa Cruz  •  Aug 14, 2010 @1:57 am

      Thanks, everyone. I’m glad you like the list. I LOVE mysteries (obviously)!

      And I have a few more to add, too, which didn’t make the list only because my post was getting too long. I’ve also enjoyed:

      –HALF-MOON INVESTIGATIONS, by Eoin Colfer
      –DANI NOIR, by Nova Ren Suma
      –THE MYSTERY OF THE MARTELLO TOWER, by Jennifer Lanthier
      –SAMMY KEYES AND THE HOTEL THIEF, by Wendelin Van Draanen (the first in a series of great mysteries starring Sammy Keyes)
      –WOLF STALKER (and the rest of the Mysteries In Our National Parks series), by Gloria Skurzynski and Alane Ferguson
      –NANCY DREW: THE SECRET OF THE OLD CLOCK (and all the others in the series), by Carolyn Keene
      –THE HARDY BOYS: THE TOWER TREASURE (and all the others in the series), by Franklin W. Dixon
      –TRIXIE BELDEN AND THE SECRET OF THE MANSION (and all the others in the series), by Kathryn Kenny
      –AMERICAN GIRLS MINI MYSTERIES (there are a few of these now, I think), by Rick Walton
      –SKULDUGGERY PLEASANT, by Derek Landy
      –THE SHERLOCK FILES: THE 100-YEAR-OLD SECRET, by Tracy Barrett

      I’d better stop there. If I’m not careful, I might just list every mystery ever written for middle-grade kids. Happy sleuthing!

    8. Melina  •  Aug 14, 2010 @11:43 am

      The Red Blazer Girls!

    9. jama  •  Aug 14, 2010 @1:32 pm

      Enjoyed this post. Good job, Elissa! :)

    10. Jennifer Duddy Gill  •  Aug 14, 2010 @8:46 pm

      How funny… I never would have said I’m a fan of mysteries, but, yes, given your list of mysteries, I am a fan! Who’da thunk it? Perhaps Nancy Drew had a hunch all along.

    11. Tracy Abell  •  Aug 15, 2010 @12:19 pm

      I still remember the Hardy Boys “Sinister Sign Post” mystery. My older brother and I agreed it was the most scary of all!

      This is a great list, and I love those Two Minute mysteries because they’re a quick way to stretch my brain.

    12. Mindy Alyse Weiss  •  Aug 15, 2010 @9:13 pm

      Great list, Elissa. I already love a few of these books and just added a bunch of them to my to-read list.

      One fun and quirky middle-grade mystery that I love and didn’t see on your lists is A Recipe 4 Robbery by Marybeth Kelsey.

    13. Laurie Schneider  •  Aug 15, 2010 @10:58 pm

      You’ve got me pondering mysteries – in my own work and others’, Elissa. Last night I watched the Lightning Thief with my kids. None of us liked it. We all wondered why they revealed right away that Percy was a son of Poseidon. In Riordan’s book, Percy’s true identity is a mystery for many, many pages, which adds to the suspense.

    14. Lois D. Brown  •  Aug 17, 2010 @8:08 am

      I’m in the process of writing a mg mystery, so I really appreciate this list. You guys do a great job on this site with interesting posts.