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America's National Mystery Book Series: The Mystery at Fort Sumter, The Mystery at Mount Vernon, The Mystery at Yellowstone National Park Review by Amy M. O'Quinn

Carole Marsh
Gallopade International
6000 Shakerag Hill Suite 31
PO Box 2779
Peachtree City, GA 30269

When I received three books from Gallopade International's America's National Mystery Book Series, I had never heard of the series or the author, Carole Marsh. However, I love reading about national historic sites, and I love a good mystery, so I was intrigued by the thought of combining the two concepts into children's books. The result is both interesting and educational.

Carole Marsh has written many books and several series for children, and in this particular series she uses the tagline "Real Kids . . . Real Places!" So in a nutshell, the books are all set at real historic places, feature real people as the characters, and involve solving some sort of mystery that is appropriate for young children. Also included in the books are a glossary, SAT words, and (in some of the installments) a built-in "talk about it" book club page.

Mrs. Marsh (Mimi), her husband (Papa), and two of their grandchildren (Christina and Grant) are featured in each book, and they travel from place to place in order for Mimi (a children's writer--what else?) to do research for her books. Of course, it would not be a Carole Marsh mystery if the travelers didn't unearth or stumble upon clues and a mystery themselves--sometimes with humorous results! The author often uses other real children to "play" the parts of characters in the books as well, and readers can actually visit her website and apply to be a character in an upcoming mystery.

The Mystery at Fort Sumter (#29) involves puzzling incidents and clues, including a pile of stolen cannonballs, a Civil War fort, a big storm, and a missing (or dead) Great-aunt Lulu. Can Christina, Grant, and their friends Ashley and Cooper discover what has happened to the stolen artifacts and Great-aunt Lulu? And how do the quirky, bicycle-riding bellman and a strange elderly lawyer figure into things?

In The Mystery at Mount Vernon (#32), Christina and Grant travel with Mimi and Papa to the home of George Washington. Along with their new friends, Patrick and Nellie, they find perplexing clues and mysterious wooden teeth. Have they bitten off more than they can chew? During this adventure, they learn many interesting facts about the Father of our Country and his famous estate.

In The Mystery at Yellowstone National Park (#34), Mimi, Papa, and the kids get to experience all the wonders and attractions at the very first national park ever established in the world. From marveling at bubbling paint pots, thermal pools, geysers, and even wild bears to solving an old mystery involving a special treasure, Christina, Grant and their friends Gunny and Molly Jane sometimes find themselves in "hot water."

Mrs. Marsh has a plethora of resources and extra goodies at her website for both educators and kids, including summaries, reading-level guides, reader keys, the first three chapters from any book in the series, games, character quizzes, etc.

I enjoyed reading these mysteries and even learned some historical facts I didn't know. However, I will admit that I thought some of the events and scenarios meant to get Christina and Grant away from their grandparents in order to solve the mysteries without adult help were somewhat unrealistic, and a few of the chapter transitions were a bit abrupt and sometimes confusing. Nevertheless, since these books are meant for children aged 9-12, and readers of that age are more into the mystery and "story" aspect, that might not be a problem. Also, I thought the two later sequenced books were better written than the earlier one. In addition, be aware that the author does use "old earth" and "millions of years" references.

If you are looking for a fun, interesting, educational, and unusual resource to teach your children about national historic places and events, this series by Carole Marsh's might be just the ticket!

Product review by Amy M. O'Quinn, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, July 2010