For young mystery lovers: a picture book and beginning readers series for using clues to solve puzzles

When I was teaching, I loved using picture books as teaching materials. The students were so entertained by the stories that they didn’t realize I was sneaking in important concepts! With these mysteries for young readers, teachers can show students how to pay attention to details and how to use organized problem-solving methods to get answers to questions and to solve mysteries. And kids will have lots of fun while learning about these methods – I guarantee it!

“Beatrice Bly’s Rules for Spies: Mystery Goo” by Sue Fliess and illustrated by Beth Mills is the second in this clever spy series aimed at primary grade children. We know that Beatrice Bly’s first spy mission was successful, so she’s itching for another adventure. She wants to use her powers of deduction, her super sleuthy spy moves, and to test her abilities to the max. When something sticky ends up on her elbow, she decides figuring out the source of the sticky substance is her new mission. Her best friend Nora dutifully collects a sample of the goo. Following protocol, they carefully observe their surroundings for clues.

In a notebook, they write goo possibilities. They examine the goo samples under a microscope and compare other gooey samples to the mystery goo. None match. But Beatrice is undeterred, and not only do they eventually solve the mystery; the results of their investigation give them a prize-winning idea for the science fair. A win all around! The no-nonsense distinctive illustrations are a fine match for the straightforward narrative. Sharp-eyed readers will notice a tongue-in-cheek addition to the illustration of a classroom bookshelf. (Pixel and Ink Books)

An early chapter book series that young readers will love (my grandson did!) is the “Little Sherlock” series by Pascal Prévot and Art Grootfontein. The first four books in the series are “Little Sherlock: The Case of the Mysterious Goldfish,” “Little Sherlock: A Ghost at the Carnival,” “Little Sherlock: The Mystery of the Vanishing Potatoes,” and “Little Sherlock: The Secret of the Treasure Chest.” Each story features Sherlock, whose dad is the great detective Sherlock Holmes; Little Sherlock’s faithful companion, a pug named Punk; Little Sherlock’s best friend Doc Watson; twins Danielle and Adele; and his friend Gus Lestrade, whose father is a police officer. Together they use their powers of deduction to amass clues and solve mysteries. Included in the books are puzzles that test the powers of deduction of the reader with questions that require careful observation and critical thinking. Some puzzles involve matching; others are letters that need to be unscrambled; and there are some puzzles that just require using process of elimination. In other words, there’s a puzzle for everyone, and they are all age appropriate. Schools, apartment buildings, and a carnival are great settings for these clever little mysteries, which will appeal to kids from preschool through third or even fourth grade. (Peter Pauper Press)

Please note: This review is based on the final hardcover Beatrice Bly and advance copies of the Sherlock mysteries, provided by the publishers for review purposes.