Thursday, February 22, 2007

Bridging the Gap IV: Stepping into Chapter Books

My first experience with Ron Roy's A to Z Mysteries came when a very bright and very assertive first grader came up with a couple of said mysteries and pleaded, "I read both of these all the way through by myself. I'll give them to the library if you will write the AR (Accelerated Reader) quizzes for me to take." With a request like that, what can you say but "Sure! Soon as I can." It didn't take long to find out that the kid had picked a winner, and we soon added many more A to Z Mysteries and quizzes to our early chapter book arsenal.

The series, written at third grade level, feature a trio of sleuths, Dink, Josh, and Ruth Rose, who live in Green Lawn, a pleasant town which just happens to have a lot of mysteries that need solving. The mysteries run the gamut from The Absent Author through The Talking T. Rex to The Zombie Zone. When the pace of crime gets slow around Green Lawn, the kids go on location, as in The Zombie Zone, where a camping trip in Louisiana bayou country uncovers a hoax in which a voodoo zombie is seen digging up a village graveyard.

The three main characters are well delineated, the settings are varied, and the plots feature real foreshadowing in which the reader may figure out the clues before the detective trio do. The mysteries involve kid-tested subjects such as (supposed) vampires, ghosts, robotic dinosaurs, quicksand, and wolves. Dink, Josh, and Ruth Rose are smart, funny, and resourceful kids, and adults are available but mostly uninvolved in the crime-stopping until time for the final collar.

Ron Roy has recently extended the initial 26 titles with a second series of the A to Z sleuths, including Detective Camp and Mayflower Treasure Hunt.

Another mystery series by Ron Roy, featuring kid detectives Marshall Li and K.C. Corcoran, is the Capital Mysteries, which include, in order of publication, Who Cloned the President?, Kidnapped at the Capitol, Skeleton in the Smithsonian, Spy in the White House, Who Broke Lincoln's Thumb, Trouble at the Treasury, Fireworks at the FBI, and to be published in May, 2007, Mystery at the Washington Monument.

These books have a lot to offer in the way of logical thinking, incidental learning, and just plain fun reading for the early chapter book crowd. And--Ron Roy's still writing more!

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