Sunday 3 March 2024

A HISTORY OF MYSTERY (part 1 - picture books). by Sharon Tregenza

     Mystery stories can excite, engage and encourage reluctant readers and mystery fiction is one of the most popular genres of children's literature.

    When kids hunt for mystery clues they are reading the books analytically and searching for patterns. Mysteries cover a wide range of settings and subject matter, so they can be easily integrated into different countries, cultures and interests. Even the youngest child can be drawn in by a good mystery. The best books in the genre are original and exciting. Here are three of my favourites...

    'Tuesday' by David Wiesner is a picture book example of puzzles and crime mystery, although you may not have thought of it in that way. It's a book of very few words but here the flight of the frogs is the puzzle, how and why did it happen. The detective aspect comes in at the end when the town is trying to solve the puzzle of the lily pads scattered everywhere. There's plenty of opportunity after reading this book to discuss funny options with a four year old.

    'Piggins' by Jane Yolen and illustrated byJane Dyer. This is a lovely pastiche of a classic British mystery, complete with butler, jewels, and plenty of Agatha Christie type cosy mystery elements.

    The understated humour provides a gentle read for young children and the classic structure makes a good picture book example to share with older kids. 

    And my all time favourite picture book: 'Black and White' by David Macaulay. It's won a stack of awards and I think it deserves every one. This is a stunning illustration-based book in which four separate stories happen simultaneously on each page. Or are they separate? Kids get really excited at finding connections and they can surprise you with details you hadn't even noticed. Maybe this isn't a traditional mystery story but it exercises the same open-minded, analytic collecting of clues and searching for patterns. I love its originality.


1 comment:

Odette said...

An interesting post. I'll look forward to Part 2 (Hopefully Middle Grade. . ) I'm currently working on a MG story that is set in post World War 2 in France. The children discover a buried notebook with most of the entries written in code. I found it quite challenging to write and describe how the children de-code the entries. There will be charts for children to follow. . . Next job: to finish the story, then wonder who to send it to!