The mystery/thriller category is a popular one with children, and I keep waiting for that special book that will lead to a pop culture phenomenon like Harry Potter, Twilight, The Hunger Games, and Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Nevertheless, we have a good crop of books this year. We’ve already discussed THE GHOSTS OF TUPELO LANDING, but here are some more that you should be aware of.
ALL THE WRONG QUESTIONS by Lemony Snicket . . . Snicket has been busy with not just two entries in this series this year–WHEN DID YOU SEE HER LAST? and SHOULDN’T YOU BE IN SCHOOL? but also a book of short stories, FILE UNDER: 13 SUSPICIOUS INCIDENTS. This series really hasn’t taken off the way that we had all hoped it would–at least in my neck of the woods–and it hasn’t generated critical buzz either. An unlikely Newbery contender.
THE GREAT GREENE HEIST by Varian Johnson . . . A fun, clever romp set in middle school. The author was inspired by movies like SNEAKERS and OCEAN’S ELEVEN and books like THE WESTING GAME. You may remember this one from earlier in the year as it had the great good fortune of coming out during the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign, and it features a great cover with its multicultural cast. Two starred reviews.
GREENGLASS HOUSE by Kate Milford . . . This one padded its resume recently by adding the National Book Award long list to its two starred reviews. When strange guest start arriving at the inn with strange stories, the son of the innkeeper and the daughter of the cook start an adventure. I haven’t read it yet, but it looks very intriguing, and reviews in some quarters have dared to compare it to THE WESTING GAME. Looking forward to this one.
HE LAUGHED WITH HIS OTHER MOUTHS by M.T. Anderson . . . This is the sixth and final Pals in Peril novel featuring Jasper Dash and friends. This one finds Jasper looking for the father he’s never known–even if it takes him to outer space! No more Brixton Brothers by Mac Barnett, no more Pals in Perils by M.T. Anderson. What’s the reader of funny, intelligent parodies to do?
LANTERN SAM AND THE BLUE STREAK BANDITS by Michael Beil . . . Anyone remember the Red Blazer Girl mysteries? Same author. A talking cat narrates in a classic hard-boiled voice this historical mystery set in the 1930s. Aboard the train, he helps 10-year-old Henry find his missing friend. I think this would work for readers who like Bruce Hale’s Chet Gecko series of Doreen Cronin’s J.J. Tully mysteries.
LOOT by Jude Watson . . . Watson won the National Book Award several years ago for WHAT I SAW AND HOW I LIED writing under the name Judy Blundell. She’s contributed to lots of multi-author middle grade series, but as far as I know this is a standalone debut, and a strong one at that. Like GREAT GREENE, this is a heist novel. This one features a pair of twins that must steal the cursed jewels that their dead father stole many years ago. Great fun!
SAMMY KEYES AND THE KISS GOODBYE by Wendelin Van Draanen . . . The final Sammy Keyes novel–gasp!–is narrated in third person as Sammy lies in a coma. The various players in the series come together to solve the final mystery: Who pushed Sammy Keyes out of the third story window? I love this series, but stopped reading somewhere around six or seven–and this is number eighteen! I’m sorely tempted to pick this one up and see how it reads without having followed the series faithfully.
SKINK by Carl Hiaasen . . . Like GREENGLASS HOUSE, this one has been long listed for the National Book Award. While it’s older than his previous juvenile novels–indeed, it’s being billed as young adult–it still reads like a middle school book, and thus fair game for the Newbery committee. This one features, Skink, one of Hiaasen’s more beloved characters helping Richard find his cousin who has gone off with somebody she met online.
Are you excited about any of these? Are we missing any? Do they hold up under closer Newbery scrutiny?
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About Jonathan Hunt
Jonathan Hunt is the Coordinator of Library Media Services at the San Diego County Office of Education. He served on the 2006 Newbery committee, and has also judged the Caldecott Medal, the Printz Award, the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. You can reach him at email@example.com
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