No story today. I just thought I should explain why I have so much trouble with kids’ stories. I love kids’ stories, but they were something I discovered as an adult. Kind of.
My mother read to me all the time when I was little, but she liked the Berenstain Bears. So that’s what she read – that and Dr. Seuss, but I’m pretty sure it’s child abuse not to read Dr. Seuss. I had a favorite book, but she hated it and only let me check it out from the library a couple times. I don’t remember much about it except that it was a mystery. It involved a stolen family recipe. The grandmother is certain she knows who took it, but her granddaughter proves it’s someone else. I don’t know why my mother didn’t like it, but she didn’t. I however, adored it. It was my first introduction into the mystery genre. A genre that still makes up 90% of my reading list.
By the time I finished kindergarten, I finished with children’s books. Oh, I would still read to my little cousins, but I was too big to read them to myself. And definitely too big to be read to. (Side note, my dad read the Chronicles of Narnia to me when I was seven, but I let that pass since they weren’t for little kids)
Mom still wouldn’t let me check out my favorite book so I moved on to a book I had found at home. It was called Two Minute Mysteries by Donald Sobol. These were just the right length for first grader (though I certainly took longer than two minutes to read them). I spent the next two years devouring these books – there must have been ten of them, or maybe four. I don’t remember. What I do remember is that when I was in second grade, my seventh grade cousin said he’d solved several of them without looking up the solution. I was bitterly jealous. I felt stupid – I had never been able to solve one, how had he? I realize now that he might have been lying, or he might have been taking advantage of the five year difference and actually solving them. But either way, I became determined to solve the mysteries for myself.
I finished all the Two Minute Mysteries and discovered that Donald Sobol also wrote detective stories for kids. I read all the Encyclopedia Brown mysteries in third grade. Fortunately, I had a really good memory and Donald Sobol reused plots from the Two Minute Mysteries. But still, my eight year old mind felt that I had finally cracked the code. I had these mysteries all figured out. Time for bigger games. (Fun fact: I wrote my first fan fiction in third grade about the detective from Two Minute Mysteries. It was a total Mary Sue, but I think we all start there. I still have it if anybody wants to read it. It’s hilariously bad)
I tried Nancy Drew but preferred the Hardy Boys. At the same time I discovered the Baby Sitters’ Club and my love for mysteries finally had some competition. By ten I switched to Sherlock Holmes and at twelve, Agatha Christie’s Poirot. And yes, I did read the whole Holmes canon. I thought I’d read all the Poirot stories, but the library didn’t have the whole set.
In high school I desperately searched for a new mystery writer. But a lifetime of mystery stories had left me jaded. I couldn’t find an author who could fool me. At least not more than once. Somewhere along the line I had learned to find the author’s tells. I knew what didn’t belong. And if it didn’t belong it had to be a clue…or a red herring. And if the author fooled me with those, then I read another one of his or her books. Unfortunately, once was all it took. I know that sounds like bragging, and maybe it is a little, but it’s mostly a complaint. I really want to find a new mystery writer. (So while this is supposed to be a blog about kids’ stories, if anybody has any recommendations on mystery novels I’d love to hear them.)
But actually, the whole point of this long rambling story (I really need to stop blogging at three in the morning), is that I want to try something different. I quit reading children’s stories because of the lack of mysteries. I’ve been hunting for children’s mysteries and have found a few, but they seem to rely mostly on pictures. As I seriously can’t draw, I’m going to have trouble with that.
My niece, who’s in kindergarten, has gotten the reading thing pretty much down. She read the word delicious with only a slight stumble and no help. I think that’s a pretty good sign she might be ready for chapter books. Probably not my Two Minute Mysteries, but maybe something like Junie B. Jones. (Did anybody read that? That was another late discovery for me, but I think they’re adorable)
So, my next post will probably be about figuring out children’s mysteries. This one is about my lack of knowledge when it comes to children’s books in general. And about bragging on my niece. But mostly making excuses for the coming change in stories. They’re going to be longer and more involved. They will still be for children (and, Julie, I’m still gonna need you to do the illustrations) but if my niece is anything like me, and she sure seems to be, she’s going to be ready for longer books.
So thanks, anybody that actually read through this post, and if you have any recommendations on mysteries for children or chapter books for early readers let me know. I need to do some more research and I need to figure out what’s out there already.