Newtons Book News

Childrens Book Reviews

Mystery Books

October is a splendid month to read stories that scare us and are full of mystery. And they will do just that for ages 9 and older. The last four books are geared for younger readers. All of these books are sequels to other books, but they all stand alone and readers need not read the other books to enjoy these particular ones.

The Hanging Hill, by Chris Grabenstein, is a sequel to “The Crossroads”. Eleven-year-old Zack has just come to stay temporarily in a town in Connecticut while his step-mom is helping with a production that she wrote. Zack soon realizes that the location of “The Hanging Hill Playhouse” has a past that’s related to the name of the theater.  What makes this story so inventive and exciting is that Zack can see ghosts and they seem to be everywhere.  The reader is in on the fact that the director is attempting to bring these not-so-nice ghosts about with his play.  Zack soon discovers this fact and the race is on to stop this from happening.  The action is non-stop and the anticipation of what might be around the corner is around every page and humor abounds helping alleviate tense moments.

The Sherlock Files: The Beast of Blackslope, by Tracy Barrett, is book 2 in this series and many readers are glad there will be more to come. Sister and brother, Xena and Xander, are directly related to the famous Sherlock Holmes and delight in solving mysteries. This story takes them to a small village where they hear strange howlings. When they ask the townspeople about it none of them want to talk. The mysterious developments will become hard to solve as there are many red herrings which actually make this page turner perfect for the younger Sherlock Holmes’ enthusiast.

Ghost in the Machine: Ryan’s Journal, by Patrick Carman, is a very innovative book with the text in the form of a journal written by one of two main protagonists. There is also a video you can view online throughout the book that is part of the other protagonist, Sarah, as she uses her video cam. There are hidden clues to be solved and the story is the second in the “Skeleton Creek” series. Warning – this book is chilling and should be not be read alone.

Alec Flint, Super Sleuth: The Nina, The Pinta, and the Vanishing Treasure, by Jill Santopolo, is a new series that will have budding mystery enthusiasts excited for the next book. Alec, with the help of Gina, discovers that the Christopher Columbus exhibit is missing from the local museum. The mystery that unfolds will have readers turning the pages to the very end to discover what happened and why. This book is as good as the “Encyclopedia Brown” series which are great chapter mystery books.

Now for some lighter books on this subject: The Bag of Bones, by Vivian French, is the second book in “The Five Kingdoms” series.  I reviewed the first book, “The Robe of Sculls”, and loved it. There’s a witch who wants to become the queen and is magically shrinking all of the good witches to the size of rats. But a willful and sassy orphan, Gracie Gillypot, a prince, a troll and two talking bats cleverly, with humor throughout, beat the witch at her own game.

The next three books are good for ages 7 to 9. Rumblewick’s Diary: My Unwilling Witch Sleeps Over, by Hiawyn Oram, will certainly bring you some laughs.  Rumblewick is Haggy Aggy’s cat and he is continually trying to get his owner to be more “witchy” and mean. But Haggy just wants to be human and tries to use her magic to become normal. What is Rumblewick going to do now that she’s going to two normal girl’s house for a sleepover? There are delightful black and white illustrations, by Sarah Warburton, throughout and some are full page. This is #2 in the series with #3 coming out next month.

43 Old Cemetery Road: Dying to Meet You, by Kate Klise, and illustrated by M. Sarah Klise, is a haunting romp when a crotchety author, who seems to have writer’s block, moves into an old mansion where an eleven-year-old boy and a ghost live. But through some inventive twists by ghost and child, the author discovers some surprising things about himself and his writings. The text is told through correspondence, newspaper clippings and documents. The line drawings found throughout are a perfect fit and help move the story along to the culminating end.

Nighttime:  Too Afraid to Scream, by Todd Strasser, and illustrated by Doug Cushman, is the third book in this series that has 7 short stories with endings that will surprise the young reader and possibly leave them hanging. Some include “The Phantom Text Messager” and “The Black Cat”.

This last book is for the newest reader: Jon Scieszka’s Trucktown: The Spooky Tire, illustrated by David Shannon, Loren Long and David Gordon. This easy-to-read story takes the classic tale of the “Teeny Tiny Woman” with a twist. Melvin, the cement truck, needs a new tire and goes to a spooky junkyard. But when he takes a tire, a ghost truck asks, “Who took my golden tire?” Kids will enjoy this easy read with few words on each page.

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