Mysteries are fascinating to both kids and adults. Luckily, picture books are available to feed this need for fabulous books to get kids hooked on mysteries. From picture books for early readers to picture books for older readers, it’s covered.
For early readers, “One Fox: A Counting Book Thriller” by Kate Read will, in turn, worry, engage, and amuse readers. The text features fabulous and robust vocabulary while the illustrations go from the “famished fox” red against a white background to “beady eyes” with a double page spread that’s almost all black and shades of dark gray with eight white eyes and one set of sharp white teeth. It’s visually stunning. Will the fox get the chickens? Perhaps my favorite is the page with colorful chicken track marks and the text: “No hens or foxes were harmed in the making of this book.” Beautiful, clever, creative, and satisfying. (Peachtree)
“Chapter Two is Missing” written by Josh Lieb and illustrated by Kevin Cornell is another mystery picture book that’s clever both in terms of text and illustrations. The illustrations are all in black, white and orange. The humor starts before the title page with an illustration showing the main character looking at boxes labeled “punctuation,” “half-baked premises,” “clever bon mots,” and “awe-inspiring profanity” (don’t worry, there’s a lock around this one), among other things. There is a box filled with page numbers and one with chapter titles. In Chapter 1, we find out at the start that the narrator has noticed that Chapter Two is missing. He says, “It was definitely here yesterday, and it can’t have walked off on its own, so that can only mean someone stole it.” There’s even a double-page spread showing the missing two pages of Chapter Two, with a few faint letters and small fingers turning the page on the right-hand side. Then, on the next page, in Chapter 3, it begins: ‘”And furthermore,” continued Milo the janitor…’ This is a great time to stop reading and ask children why he’s saying “furthermore” when we didn’t meet him yet. The text is filled with humor. For example at the end of Chapter 4, the detective tells the first person narrator that she can’t tell him if she’s gotten any calls about the missing chapter because that information is supposed to be in Chapter Five. Turn the page, and the narrator says, “But this is Chapter Five.” And so it goes. The m’s go missing. Page numbers go missing. There is a surprise chapter that’s from another book altogether. The humor doesn’t stop and the mystery is solved only at the end. Kids loved reading it! In fact, they wanted to read it again…and again. Perfect for kids in first grade and older. I think even fourth graders would enjoy the tongue-in-cheek humor in this clever picture book. (Razorbill)
“The Upper Case: Trouble in Capital City” by Tara Lazar and Ross McDonald is a clever sequel to “7 Ate 9: The Untold Story.” In this alphabet mystery, punctuation plays a particular role and plays on words are the order of the day. Question Mark, also known as Mark, came in to the Private I’s office. “He looked bent out of shape.” And the main character, the Private I, is the capital letter I. There is a problem in Capital City — all the uppercase letters are missing! In fact, Private I is the last capital letter standing, according to Mark. Private I realizes that “if all the capital letter were gone, there’d be incomplete sentences dangling everywhere.” I interviews all the “types.” Hyphen was busy “dashing around town.” Ampersand was “minding her p’s and q’s” (adorably in a double stroller). “And Comma was dividing her time on a huge list of things.” (It’s fun to talk about these characters and what they are doing and have the kids put it all together!) Private I follows the clues and finds the culprit and is able to save the day. And there are plenty of chuckles and puns to enjoy along the way. (Disney-Hyperion)
Last but certainly not least is “Can U Save the Day?” written by Shannon Stocker and illustrated by Tom Disbury. This story of consonants versus vowels is written in rhyming verse that makes it a terrific read aloud. A is the first vowel to disappear in an effort to show boastful letter B that while the vowels may be outnumbered, their import cannot be measured by their number. Without the vowel “a,” ‘Instead of bark, the dog said “brk.”‘ And the duck couldn’t quack, nor could the frog properly croak. When E disappears, the animal sounds get even wonkier. Birds can’t tweet, they can only “twt.” But the consonants still think this is quite funny, until a tractor goes berserk and the consonants are in danger. Can U save the day? Read this charming tale and find out! (Sleeping Bear Press)
Please note: These reviews are based on the final, hardcover books provided by the publishers for review purposes.