Saturday, September 13, 2014
Every Saturday, I host a feature called Kid Konnection -- a regular weekend feature about anything related to children's books. This week, I'm going to share with you a terrific series for young middle grade readers.
Have you ever said to yourself, Wouldn’t it be nice to be a detective?
This is the story of an African girl who says just that. Her name is Precious.
When a piece of cake goes missing from her classroom, a traditionally built young boy is tagged as the culprit. Precious, however, is not convinced. She sets out to find the real thief. Along the way she learns that your first guess isn’t always right. She also learns how to be a detective. -- Anchor Books
One day, Teb and Pontsho’s family’s cow disappears. Precious helps them look for clues to find the cow. But getting the cow back home will require some quick thinking and help from an unexpected source. -- Anchor
I have been meaning to share my thoughts about the Precious Ramotswe Mysteries by Alexander McCall Smith and illustrated by Iain McIntosh for some time, and since the third book is coming out next month, I figured now is as good as a time as any! I have read all three books in this series, THE GREAT CAKE MYSTERY: PRECIOUS RAMOTSWE'S VERY FIRST CASE, THE MYSTERY OF MEERKAT HILL, and THE MYSTERY OF THE MISSING LION; and I have to say that these books are positively delightful for young middle grade readers. Of course, I'm a huge fan of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency books that are written for adults, so it's not a stretch to think I'd like reading about Precious when she was a budding childhood detective!
There are many things that make the books in this series special so it's hard to focus on just a few; however, Precious is certainly one of them. Precious is a wonderful character. She is extremely likable and I'm certain kids will enjoy her insights as well as her ability to think through problems and solve mysteries. It's just adorable to see Precious developing her detective skills, and I can see all of her adult personality traits being formed. I especially loved Precious's compassion towards others which is evident in all three books.
In addition, I love how educational these books are. Maybe that's the mom in me talking, but these books definitely teach children about Africa and its culture. The actual story has some interesting tidbits thrown in about Botswana, and kids won't even notice that they are actually learning something! However, there is also a section in the back of the books that explains things about the geography, people, and animals of Botswana.
I also appreciate the artwork in these books. The pictures are terrific and a perfect complement to the stories, but they also serve another purpose as far as I'm concerned -- they break up the text for readers who might be intimidated by all of the words. I remember when Booking Son was afraid to read anything without pictures and would get bored with this type of book.
The mysteries in these books are too cute and perfect for young readers -- no murder mysteries here! One has cakes that mysteriously disappear, one has a cow who is missing, and one has a lion that goes missing. Booking Son read THE GREAT CAKE MYSTERY and was able to figure out the mystery given the clues, so I suspect that most kids, especially those who appreciate mysteries, will have fun figuring out what happened in these books.
One of the best things about these books, though, is that there are discussion questions available for all of them. The Great Cake Mystery Guide is available on-line, but the other guides are included in the back of the books. In addition to the questions, there are pre-reading activities, recipes, and curriculum connections. For example, there are questions and suggested activities tied to Geography, Science/Biology, Language Arts, and Social Studies. These books are a natural fit for mother/daughter book clubs, and they are also perfect for classrooms!
I truly can't rave enough about the Precious Ramotswe Mysteries for Young Readers. Highly recommended for children interested in mysteries as well as African culture.
If you'd like to participate in Kid Konnection and share a post about anything related to children's books (picture, middle grade, or young adult) from the past week, please leave a comment as well as a link below with your name/blog name and the title of the book! Feel free to grab the little button too!