I always have a challenge finding great early chapter books for kids. So many books feel dumbed down for this age group, so when I find a winner I really get excited.
Recently I have come across an unparralled number of mystery books in this category. Whodunits are great for early readers because they have to find clues in the story to help them either solve the mystery or understand who the suspects might be. This kind of foreshadowing and plot development are great for beginning chapter book readers as they prepare to move to more complex novels.
This week I have mysteries for baseball lovers, those who couldn't get enough of Fancy Nancy, and a new entrant to kid's fiction, Alexander McCall Smith, the beloved author of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series for adults.
To see all my mystery book recommendations for early readers, please visit my blog at www.onegreatbook.com
Title: The Great Cake Mystery
Author: Alexander McCall Smith
Target: Grades 1-3
Series: It will depend on the success of this book
What this book is about:
Precious Ramotswe lives in Botswana, and she would like to be a detective. Her first case happens upon her at school, where sweets are being stolen from the lunches of the other children. While some are quick to accuse one of their classmates who is prone to eating sweets, Precious knows that without any proof it is unfair to accuse him. Will she find the truth and help exonerate her friend?
Why I love this book:
This book is based on the early years of Precious, the main character in the best selling adult series, The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. While I have not read the series, I have seen the charming HBO series based on the books and this is a lovely spin off for kids.
I found this book wonderful. It speaks to a younger audience and while not subtle in its messages of honesty and stereotypes, children at this age, to a greater extent, need things spelled out for them, which this book does in the most endearing way.
I also love it when a book exposes children to a different culture in a non preaching way. This book is a delightful mystery, with good messages, that just happens to takes place in Botswana!
Who this book is for:
This book may be a hard sell simply because the illustrations, while quite impressive to adults, simply don’t have a children’s appeal. However, I would encourage you to read the first chapter to kids and I think they will be hooked. Pictures are plentiful, although not on every page, so children have to feel comfortable reading a full page of text to enjoy this book on their own.
This is also a wonderful class read aloud. The author has included discussion questions and activities for the book, so it can truly be a learning experience for kids, even to simply getting out a map and finding Botswana before you start reading!
The feel good mystery of the year!