Category: Discussions

Diving into Detective Middle Grade Fiction

Are you a fan of mysteries? Do you dig detectives? Love the perfect plot? Watch Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries?!!? Well, then you might be interested in some Middle Grade fiction I’ve been reading and adding to my shelves lately!

Screen Shot 2016-01-20 at 9.25.36 PM

The first time I studied in London, at the age of twenty, I fell in love with the great British detective writer, Wilkie Collins. I read his classic, THE WOMAN IN WHITE, and I have to tell you, I was entranced. I couldn’t get enough of the sensational plot and just had to find out who this mysterious woman in white was, and whether the mystery would be uncovered. I went on to read THE MOONSTONE, as well as many other books of his.

woman in white

I tell you all this with excitement, because I’m currently reading a splendid Middle Grade book called THE WOLLSTONECRAFT DETECTIVE AGENCY: THE CASE OF THE MISSING MOONSTONE. What’s fantastic is that Jordan Stratford, the author, has definitely read Collins, and this Middle Grade series is influenced by Collins’ work, in a way. I’m really enjoying the book so far–it’s fast paced and filled with fun banter between the two “detectives”–Mary and Ada.

Take a look at the Goodreads Synopsis:

“Jordan Stratford imagines an alternate 1826, where Ada Lovelace (the world’s first computer programmer) and Mary Shelley (author of Frankenstein) meet as girls and form a secret detective agency!

Lady Ada Byron, age eleven, is a genius. Isolated, awkward and a bit rude—but a genius. Mary Godwin, age fourteen, is a romantic. Adventurous, astute, and kind, Mary is to become Ada’s first true friend. And together, the girls conspire to form the Wollstonecraft Detective Agency—a secret constabulary for the apprehension of clever criminals. Their first case involves a stolen heirloom, a false confession, and an array of fishy suspects. But it’s no match for the deductive powers and bold hearts of Ada and Mary.”

Then, for my Broke and Bookish Christmas gift, I received THE DETECTIVE’S ASSISTANT by Kate Hannigan. Yet another Middle Grade detective story I had been wanting awhile. I’m really looking forward to reading this one as well–check out the Goodreads description:

“The incredible tale of America’s first ever female detective and her spirited niece!

Eleven-year-old Nell Warne arrives on her aunt’s doorstep lugging a heavy sack of sorrows. If her Aunt Kate rejects her, it’s the miserable Home for the Friendless.

Luckily, canny Nell makes herself indispensable to Aunt Kate…and not just by helping out with household chores. For Aunt Kate is the first-ever female detective employed by the legendary Pinkerton Detective Agency. And Nell has a knack for the kind of close listening and bold action that made Pinkerton detectives famous in Civil War-era America. With huge, nation-changing events simmering in the background, Nell uses skills new and old to uncover truths about her past and solve mysteries in the present.

Based on the extraordinary true story of Kate Warne, this fast-paced adventure recounts feats of daring and danger…including saving the life of Abraham Lincoln!”

Finally, I have both of Robyn Stevens’ popular Middle Grade books to read in the Wells and Wong Detective Agency series! I was lucky enough to receive her first book for the Broke and Bookish Christmas as well, and I snagged an ARC of the second book at ALA Midwinter.

Screen Shot 2016-01-20 at 9.28.15 PM

What do you think of MURDER IS BAD MANNERS?

From Goodreads: Deepdean School for Girls, 1934. When Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong set up their very own deadly secret detective agency, they struggle to find any truly exciting mysteries to investigate. (Unless you count the case of Lavinia’s missing tie. Which they don’t, really.)

But then Hazel discovers the Science Mistress, Miss Bell, lying dead in the Gym. She thinks it must all have been a terrible accident – but when she and Daisy return five minutes later, the body has disappeared. Now the girls know a murder must have taken place . . . and there’s more than one person at Deepdean with a motive.

Now Hazel and Daisy not only have a murder to solve: they have to prove a murder happened in the first place. Determined to get to the bottom of the crime before the killer strikes again (and before the police can get there first, naturally), Hazel and Daisy must hunt for evidence, spy on their suspects and use all the cunning, scheming and intuition they can muster. But will they succeed? And can their friendship stand the test?”

I have a feeling I might be in a Middle Grade detective streak for awhile, and I have no doubt it will be perfectly wonderful! Are there other Middle Grade or even Young Adult detective stories or mysteries you think I need to consider? Do share in the comments!


What Katie Read

I need your help! Which YA book should I choose for my Summer College Composition Course?

Request for Help!

I’m here this morning to ask you for a wee bit of help, as I make a decision about which ONE Young Adult book to assign as part of the reading for a Freshman Composition course (of about 30 students, online) I’m teaching this summer. Most of these students are college level, but there are always a handful of high school students as well.

I ask you for two reasons. One is that I would love some help narrowing down which YA novel would be a good fit for both male and female students. And two is that you blog readers are AWESOME and I thought the idea of involving you in this choice would be FUN!

I’ve been using THE BOOK THIEF by Markus Zusack for several years. This book has worked well–it’s historical fiction, but it does have some fantasy elements, and rich characterization. It’s an all around fabulous book. But, I’m ready for a change to the course (at least for this summer) and I know there are dozens of wonderful YA books out there that would be perfect reads for college students who don’t normally read.

Normally I would make this decision on my own. But I started to think–why not ask my blog readers and my bookish friends on Twitter?

side eye dalmations

So, what YA book do you think would be appeal to both guys and girls, might grab non-readers, and would offer room for discussion in an English course? It there’s an Adult read you think would work well, you can suggest that too.

You can leave your suggestions for titles in the comments, you can tweet me, or you can even e-mail me! Thank you for your help with this–in a week I’ll post some of these suggested titles.


What Katie Read
%d bloggers like this: