Category Archives: Mystery

#11 The Westing Game

The Westing Game is what I would consider to be the mother of all children’s mysteries.  Maybe the mother of all mysteries.  With 20+ characters stuck in a snowbound apartment building overlooking a mansion, we slowly find out more and more about each one, as they go about solving the mystery of the death of the mansion owner.  Sixteen of the characters are invited to the reading of the will and are asked to take part in the solving of the murder, with a very generous inheritance in store for the winner.

My husband, who studied this book during his Children’s Literature class a few summers ago, warned me that I would need lots of paper for note-taking and character organization.  So this is what my coffee table looked like:

In the end, I did feel like I found a lot of clues within the text, but I ultimately did not solve the crime.  I would definitely recommend this novel to independent children that are adventurous and like to think outside the box.  I can tell that we are getting to the top of the Top 100 list because the books just keep getting better and better.

The Westing Game

by Ellen Raskin

Originally published in 1978


Posted by on April 30, 2011 in Mystery, top 100 children's books


Book Review: The Agency #2

Mary Quinn has taken on another case with the Agency, a group of female detectives disguised as an academy for girls. Only this time, Mary not only has to use her wits and acting skills to solve the mystery, but she has to pose as a young boy the entire time.

Mary is set on proving herself capable of being a detective, and a great one at that.  When she accepts the mission of solving a murder case, she has no idea how emotional the case will be, as she returns to her past, basically living on the streets and being looked down upon.

As you might know, I was a big fan of Y.S. Lee’s first Agency book, A Spy in the House.  Filled with action, intrigue and a touch of romance, the second book in the series does not disappoint.

Unlike the first book, I felt like the case took a while to unfold.  There were a lot of characters to follow, and I found myself having to go back and re-read some paragraphs, but each character added a new element and aspect to the mystery and the novel itself.  We get to see a different social circle of London, as Mary (or Mark) works at a construction site and lives in a boarding house.  This setting introduces a whole new cast of characters.

Brought into the story again is Mary’s semi-love interest James, bringing with him a new set of challenges for Mary and the Agency.  The romance is subtle, yet an important part of the novel.  While we still see Mary’s independence and strength shine through, the swooning after James is perfect, as she tries so hard to cover it up.  While we as the readers can see how perfect they are for each other, it might take a while for this relationship to develop.

During the course of the first book, we were introduced to a bit of Mary’s past, the complications of her former family life and her biracial background.  The second book reveals a bit more of Mary’s inner struggles and what she has been through during her short twenty-some-odd years.  She faces the challenge of remembering what it was like living on the streets and stealing in order to survive.  Y.S. Lee takes us fill circle with her personality, revealing her “weakness” and emotions that she actually does possess.  Mary Quinn is a character you can’t help but love.  The Body at the Tower only does more to reveal that.

The Agency #2: The Body at the Tower

by Y.S. Lee

Published by Candlewick

August 2010


#58 The Wolves of Willoughby Chase

Correct me if I’m wrong, my readers, but I believe this is the first gothic novel that we have come across on the Top 100 Children’s Books list, working our way from #100 to #1, of course.  If you are not familiar with this children’s novel, let me fill you in.  The story begins with the introduction of young Bonnie and her cousin Sylvia, who are staying at Willoughby Chase under the care of an evil governess who is out to gain Bonnie’s father’s fortune.  The two girls, after realizing their dreadful fate, scheme to escape and find Bonnie’s parents, or at least safety away from Miss Slighcarp.  Without revealing too many spoilers, I do need to emphasize the unexpected success the girls find in their adventures, which is what makes it a wonderful children’s novel, in my opinion.  Though it does not fall in my favorite genres in particular, I still found myself racing through the novel, wanting to seek adventure alongside Bonnie and Sylvia.

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase

by Joan Aiken

Originally published in 1962

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Posted by on December 6, 2010 in Mystery, top 100 children's books


#59 Inkheart

Inkheart is said to be a book for book lovers.  Inkheart is filled with action, mystery and great quotes from classic books.  Inkheart has at least two well-constructed protagonists.  Sadly, Inkheart was not the book for me.  I know that there is a reason why it makes an appearance on the Top 100 Children’s Books list, but it would not have been one of my top picks.  Unfortunately, I think part of this has to do with the circumstances surrounding my reading time.  When I began the book, I was in the last days of my job and in the midst of planning a trip to Chicago for my husband and parents.  Reading was put on hold for said trip and I never like my reading to be interrupted for a long period of time.  Before starting Inkheart, I had just finished reading a bunch of shorter reads from my Top 100 list, so the 534 pages that it contains was a bit daunting from the beginning.  Moral of the story?  Do not let your circumstances affect your judgment of a book.

Have I heard positive feedback about this novel?  Most definitely.  Would I encourage you, my readers, to give it a try?  Most definitely.  Will I read it again sometime?  Most definitely.


by Cornelia Funke

(Translated from the German by Anthea Bell)

Originally published in 2003


Posted by on December 3, 2010 in Mystery, top 100 children's books


#60 The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle

In the year 1832, teenaged Charlotte finds herself the only passenger aboard a ship traveling from England to America.  After the friendly cook reveals the truth about the brutal captain and the plans of the crew during their voyage, Charlotte finds herself caught in the middle of a battle bound to end in death.  Though strong and brave, she finds herself torn between the captain, one of her father’s employees, and the cook who has made himself her closest friend and protector.

The theme of truth that runs rampant throughout this novel is brilliant, in my opinion.  There is a need for an underlying emphasis on truth in young adult and children’s books these days.  While the novel is filled with mystery, action and intrigue, the important idea that I took away was to be honest with yourself, as well as to be true to yourself.  Whether a thirteen-year-old could actually experience what Charlotte did is beside the point.  The fact that she believed in what was going on around her and stuck to her guns about what should happen next is what we should take away from this novel.

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle

Written by Avi

Originally published in 1990

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Posted by on December 2, 2010 in Mystery, top 100 children's books


#62 The Secret of the Old Clock

When I was younger, I tried reading Nancy Drew mysteries.  I tried a few times, actually.  I tried different books in the series, during different seasons of the year, at a few different ages.  No luck.  So when I reached #62 on the Top 100 Children’s Books list, I was worried.  I didn’t want to have a repeat of the times before that I tried to fall in love with these mysteries.  Alas, the opposite came true.  I read The Secret of the Old Clock in one sitting.  With Twitter open to distract me and the beautiful sun shining outside my window, I still devoured this book in a matter of a few hours.  Now if only I had time to continue reading the series. . . .

Any other Nancy Drew lovers out there?  Feel free to leave your comments about the series, good and bad.  I would love to hear from you, my readers!

The Secret of the Old Clock

by Carolyn Keene (pseudonym)

Originally published in 1959


Posted by on November 28, 2010 in Mystery, top 100 children's books


#71 The Bad Beginning

You avid readers might have noticed that I skipped over book #71 on the Top 100 Children’s Books list, which would be the first book in The Series of Unfortunate Events, by Lemony Snicket. The reasoning behind that fact is that I wanted my cousin to contribute to our “thoughts” on this book and why it should be on the Top 100 list.  See, my cousin A (pictured to your left) is slightly obsessed with Lemony Snicket.  Every time we have gone to the library together, she checks out one of his books.  Every time she has stayed at my house, we end up talking about how great he is.  So instead of hearing from me about why this book is great, I wanted you to hear from A.

“I like the books because it is like a mystery. They are trying to find out who made the fire in the Baudilare mansion.  I am trying to collect them all because they’re cool books and I think everyone should get a chance to read it.  My favorite character would have to be Violet because even when she has nothing to work with she never gives up in finding something to invent with.”

So there you have it, my friends.  A huge recommendation from the voice of someone who should count more than me.  Go and check out The Series of Unfortunate Events.

The Bad Beginning

by Lemony Snicket

Originally published in 1999

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Posted by on November 18, 2010 in Mystery, top 100 children's books