The lure of the local mystery for young readers

The lure of the local mystery for young readers

Posted on February 8 by Sylvia McNicoll
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Who isn’t curious when a police car shows up at the house next door? Or when a fire truck screams up your street? Or an ambulance? Something unusual has happened. Your community now has a mystery. Don’t we immediately imagine the story behind it? Maybe there was a break-in, a fire, or some other emergency. Hopefully no one was hurt, and  the neighbour is not in any trouble. Doesn’t our neighbourhood, and, by extension, our lives, instantly become more exciting?

What about the “Lost and Found” poster taped to the street light? Don’t we wonder about where Freckles the cat ended up? Or how Barney the budgie escaped?

Or, even if a backhoe begins digging up someone’s yard, don’t we want to know what they’re building or repairing? And aren’t we a little bit intrigued by the broken mirror at the curbside on garbage pickup day?

Neighbourhood mysteries such as The Great Mistake Mysteries draw on that curiosity and intrigue. Who, what, when, where, and how are strong hooks that pull kids through each chapter (or mistake in this series’ case); no violent crime is needed. A young reader can take note of clues and make assumptions in the cozy safety of the stories. Then, they can turn their improved observation skills on their own neighborhood as they walk to school, or bike to the park or a friend’s house, keenly on the lookout for an adventure.

Our characters — anxious Stephen Noble and precocious Renée Kobai — walk dogs, and find out who vandalized cars, toilet papered houses, stole art, and, in The Snake Mistake Mystery, took a ball python and a diamond ring. They’re smart, funny kids, but not super heroes,: no powers of athleticism here. Rather, they are accessible heroes in the same way that The Great Mistake, and all neighbourhood mysteries, are accessible adventures.

After all, young readers want to believe they can be heroes too, and that a mystery lies just around the bend on their own street corner. Of course, they can be — and a neighbourhood mystery surely does await them if they just keep their eyes peeled.

Sylvia McNicoll

Posted by KathrynB on April 12, 2016
Sylvia McNicoll photo

Sylvia McNicoll

Sylvia McNicoll is the author of over thirty novels. Bringing up Beauty, her guide dog story, won the Silver Birch Award, launching her to international success. Crush.Candy.Corpse was shortlisted for the Red Maple and Arthur Ellis awards. Sylvia lives in Burlington, Ontario.