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Mystery & Mayhem - Great Escapes Review by Amanda Hopkins

Mystery & Mayhem - Rebels and Revolutions
Judy Dodge Cummings
Nomad Press
2456 Christian Street
White River Junction, VT 05001

My kids love real life stories. They find them more exciting and intriguing. I was super excited to find Mystery & Mayhem series from Judy Dodge Cummings. We had the chance to check out Great Escapes: Real Tales of Harrowing Getaways and Rebels and Revolutions: Real Tales of Radical Change in America.

My 3rd grader loves to feel like he is living the adventure when he learns about something new. He prefers real stories of the events in history to a history book. Finding these books for him are not hard, finding what I want for him during a certain time period can be. We are so happy to have these on our shelf!

Both of these books are set up in a similar way. Each story starts with a map of where the story is taking place. The key dates are written on this map, along with a simple timeline on the opposite page. All of the stories have pictures, some have more than others, but they all have pictures. While these are true stories, they are written for the ages of 9-12 years-old. Not everything is sugar coated, but there is not anything written that I would disapprove of my 9-year-old reading.

At the end of both books, we found a glossary that helps us with words we may not know. I loved to use this section as a vocabulary review for my son. This meant more learning while enjoying stories that he loved!

Mystery & Mayhem Great Escapes is about harrowing getaways from around the world. The first story takes us on a scary adventure as a couple try to escape in broad daylight. Who are they and what are they escaping? They are a husband and wife who are slaves. Next, we fight for our life with Douglas Mawson as he tries to survive in the Antarctic alone dangling above a crevasse. Being on a “death train” during Nazi Germany is our next escape as we follow 11-year-old Simon.

We travel to Alcatraz next. We try and figure out what happened when three men attempted their escape of The Rock. Finishing up this book is the story of the 29 Germans who risked it all to get on the other side of the Berlin Wall!

Mystery & Mayhem Rebels and Revolutions focuses on true stories that happened right here in America. This book challenges the kids to stand up for their beliefs even when the world seemed to be fighting against them.

Our first story is one of the Revolution and we follow 15-year-old Joseph as he stands up against the king of England and fights for America and independence. While Joseph fought a hard fight, our next story brings us into the slave trade on a ship. Here we are fighting with the other captives to win the ship over, as well as our freedom.

How would you feel if you were held captive in an internment camp because of your heritage and all of a sudden had to fight for the country that was holding you prisoner? This is the fight we are put into in the next chapter when we learn about those of Japanese heritage in America during World War II.

Next, we are drawn into the fight that Claudette Colvin had to fight. She was a black teenager in the south during the 1950s. What would you do if you were supposedly “free” yet had to follow silly rules about which bus to get on and where you could sit based on the color of your skin? Finally, we hear about a Mexican-American migrant worker who is tired of the conditions he must deal with and stands up to the guys in charge for better conditions.

Both of these books brought a lot of hard times to light for my son. He didn’t want to set them down. While I wanted to use these for history lessons, they disappeared for a time and when they came back to my desk, they were well loved and read. These were hard for me to set down and I loved that my son felt the same way.

I plan to revisit these stories one by one while we study each time period in our history studies and can focus on them more. However, having these written in a manner that my son fell in love with, means that he has a great introduction to our history. It may not all be good, but now he knows the struggles, the fights, the escapes the battle that it took to be free.

If your children love to read true stories and you want them to know more about our history, these books should be available to them! I look forward to adding the rest of the Mystery & Mayhem series to my shelf!

-Product review by Amanda Hopkins, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, November, 2017