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The Mystery at the Space Needle (America's National Mystery Book Series) and The Mystery at Grizzly Graveyard (Wildlife Mysteries) Review by Karen WaideCarole Marsh
P.O. Box 2779
Peachtree City, Georgia 30269
I always enjoyed mysteries when I was a child, and it seems my daughter is following in my footsteps. I asked her if she would like a chance to read a couple of new mysteries and she agreed. The books we received are 2 of many books in the “Real Kids-Real Places” mystery series by Carole Marsh. These books, suitable for children aged 7-14, take place in real locations and use real kids as the characters, though the stories are fiction. The Mystery at the Space Needle is a part of the America's National Mystery Book Series, and The Mystery at Grizzly Graveyard is a part of the Wildlife Mysteries series.
While reading these books, the reader will be treated to a suspenseful adventure where mystery lurks around the corner, while at the same time learning important history, geography, and cultural facts. As an added bonus, the Wildlife Mysteries series incorporates STEM skills to help solve the mystery. Mimi (the author) and Papa take their grandchildren to fun locations and before you know it, a mystery has surfaced.
The Mystery at the Space Needle begins with Mimi learning that she has been invited to an event in Seattle, Washington which is meant to raise money for the restoration of the Space Needle. Right in the first chapter we get a history lesson about the Space Needle and the World's Fair. Let's just say, I learned quite a few things I didn't know.
Mimi was given 4 plane tickets, so she and Papa are able to take their grandchildren, Christina and Grant. The mystery begins for the reader while they are on the plane; however, at that point, the characters are unaware of anything amiss. It isn't until Mimi wins a mysterious box at the fund raiser auction that the children are suddenly aware that a mystery is going to need to be solved.
While the children tour Seattle with Mimi and Papa, and two new friends Ethan and Ellie, they (along with the reader) experience Pike Place Market, the Seattle Great Wheel, and Dragon Fest. More clues surface as they try to figure out what is so special about the contents of the mysterious box and who is trying to get it. At the same time someone appears to be helping them. Throughout the book the reader is privy to information the children are not aware of. However, that information does little to help the reader know for sure who is helping the children and why they are. All
Towards the end of the book there is a bit of suspense as certain characters chase the children, but there is nothing that I would worry about having my 9 year old reading.
The Mystery at Grizzly Graveyard begins just outside Yellowstone National Park. We meet Ella, another one of Mimi and Papa's grandchildren, who has accompanied her grandparents and siblings, Avery and Evan, to Yellowstone on vacation. The story begins with Ella lost in the forest because she had wandered off to take pictures with her new camera. The beginning of this mystery is presented in the very first chapter when Ella hears a mournful cry. She then discovers a lone bear cub, bones, and weird tracks. After she is reunited with her family another part of the mystery unfolds when they arrive back at their cabin to find it ransacked. Of course rogue grizzlies are being blamed, but is that really what is going on?
We learn more about grizzlies when the family goes to the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center. While we learned a lot about history and culture in the Space Needle book, in this book we are learning a lot of science. We learn why bears can go rogue, how to react if you come across a bear in the wild, what bear scat is, and how it is used in compost. We also learn about wolves and trout and geysers. Along with the science information, there are multiple opportunities for the children to use technology and math. Using these skills and the knowledge gained, the children help to solve the mystery of the bear attacks and the original mystery of the lone bear cub.
Unlike the previous book, the reader is no more aware of what is going on than the characters are. I was quite in the dark regarding who the real villain was and was definitely suspicious of different characters.
Neither of these stories was too long. They are about 140 pages long with fairly short chapters, which is great for children who may not want to read a lot at a time. My daughter was able to zing right through them and now she is eager to read more. Fortunately our library system carries quite a few of these Real Kids-Real Places Mysteries.
I appreciated the way the history, culture, and science information was included in the story. Usually it was one character explaining something to another character, or they might read some information somewhere. This shows how easy it is to discover facts and knowledge if you are just willing to question and explore. I really enjoyed the mysteries that had to be solved, and was just as stumped as my daughter was until the big reveal.
The one thing that did bother me in the Grizzly Graveyard mystery was how quick Avery was to pull out her smart phone to answer math problems. I do understand that technology is important. However, I would rather a child try to work out the math without the help of technology first. I did appreciate there was an instance where Evan worked out a problem without the use of a smart phone and he made a point of saying so.
As an extension to these books, you are able to go online to the Carole Marsh Mystery Club to join the fan club or download some freebies. There are also contests. The book talks about trivia and games, but I haven't been able to find anything about that or the quizzes that are mentioned on the site yet. You can download a map to help track your adventures, so that is pretty cool. It is possible that you have to be a member of the fan club to get the games and such. Either way, it is a fun site to check out for fans of the books.
All in all, my daughter and I love these books and are looking forward to reading more of them. There are so many different places to discover. I highly recommend these books.
- Product review by Karen Waide, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, October, 2016