Wednesday, July 13, 2022

In search of chapter books

We’ve been looking for a series of chapter books to help supplement The Magic Treehouse books. Yeah, there are a lot of them but some variety won’t hurt. So, we’ve been looking at Ron Roy’s A-Z Mysteries.

Okay, his school librarian handed me a random handful at the end of the school year, plus some Gary Paulsen and other books. They were battered surplus that she couldn’t keep. 

It did include the first book and that was enough to get us started. And it’s about what you’d expect. Elementary age Dink, Ruth Rose and Josh stumble on a different mystery in each book. 

Seriously, kid detective stories as a genre are over a century old. Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys didn’t even get the ball rolling. So it’s a well established and well loved idea.

The A-Z Mysteries are a stark contrast to the Magic Treehouse books and not just because of the difference between fantasy and mystery. Jack and Annie have very little personality beyond Annie making life-threatening decisions and somehow surviving. Two thirds of the dialogue is didactic. (Which, to be fair, is the point) 

On the other hand, the A-Z Mysteries are much more character driven with a lot more dialogue. The kids aren’t that complex but they are still distinct.  Dink is the analytical one who comes up with investigation plans. Ruth Rose, the token girl, makes the actual conclusions. Josh eats a lot. (At least Shaggy stumbled on clues and drew monster agro)

And, in at least the first couple books, the kids investigations are pretty believable. They might go over the top by the letter Z but they start off reasonable. 

Post Script

And in one of the books, corrupt businessmen in suits were compared to penguins. Our son loves penguins and now the A-Z mysteries are dead to him for the foreseeable future.

Time to buy ten more Magic Tteehouse books.

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