Wednesday 3 April 2024

A HISTORY OF MYSTERY (part 2 - middle grade books). by Sharon Tregenza

                                                                A HISTORY OF MYSTERY

Selecting appropriate examples of middle grade mystery was difficult - there are hundreds of good books to choose from. In the end I just picked a random handful and went with them.

'The View from the Cherry Tree' by Willo Davis Roberts: Davis Roberts has written plenty of good mysteries but one of her early ones remains a favourite. This book is accessible for readers from Year Four upwards. It's been around since the seventies and it does feel a little dated; there's something of the lightweight mystery movie in its simplicity. Rob retreats from family turmoil to his favourite hidden seat on a large cherry tree, from where he witnesses the murder of Old Lady Calloway, the neighbourhood busybody. Most readers of this age will solve the mystery before the characters do, but they'll have fun doing it.

As a psychological thriller of sorts, 'I am the Cheese' by Robert Cormier gives the reader a lot to think about. It's the story of a boy named Adam who is on a physical journey through New England and a mental journey through the past, revisiting his traumatic childhood and trying to uncover lost memories. Sound interesting? It is. 

    'I am the Cheese' began Cormier's experimentation with first-person present tense narration. Young readers felt drawn into the story by the immediacy of Cormier's style and the book was a huge success. It was later made into a creepy movie - with a cameo by Cormier himself - in the 1980s, but it was given terrible reviews. This is no surprise as with the double narrative of the story, the three different points of view, and the fact that most of the book is made up of one character's internal monologue, it was always going to appeal more to a reader than to a viewer. This book is a real challenge and popular with more advanced readers.

'The London Eye Mystery' is by British author Siobhan Dowd. First published in 2007, it tells the story of Ted, a boy with Asperger's Syndrome, and how he solves the mystery when his cousin, Salim, apparently vanishes from inside a sealed capsule on the London Eye. It was Dowd's second children's novel and won six awards, including the School Library Journal Best books of the Year Award in 2008.

Ted and Kat watch their cousin Salim board the London Eye, but after half an hour it lands, and everyone has got off - except Salim. Where could he have gone? How on earth could he have disappeared into thin air? Ted and his older sister, Kat, become sleuthing partners since the police have no luck.

 Despite their prickly relationship, they overcome their differences to follow a trail of clues across London in a desperate bid to find their cousin. Ultimately it comes down to Ted, whose brain works in its own very unique way, to find the key to the mystery. This is an unputdownable spine-tingling thriller and will sweep up even the most resistant reader in its race against time.

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