Archive for ‘Mystery’

July 7, 2015

Curiosity House: The Shrunken Head

Hope you all are having a relaxing summer. I am enjoying the longer chill days with my family. Today I have a special treat for you. A short review by my 9-year old daughter who flew through this first book in a new middle-grade mystery series. Enjoy!

shrunken_headTitle: Curiosity House: The Shrunken Head
Author: Lauren Oliver & H.C. Chester
Publisher: HarperCollins, September 29, 2015
Pages: 386
Genre: Mystery
Ages: 8-12

Synopsis (from Harper Collins website):

The book is about, among other things: the strongest boy in the world, a talking cockatoo, a faulty mind reader, a beautiful bearded lady and a nervous magician, an old museum, and a shrunken head.

Blessed with extraordinary abilities, orphans Philippa, Sam, and Thomas have grown up happily in Dumfrey’s Dime Museum of Freaks, Oddities, and Wonders. But when a fourth child, Max, a knife-thrower, joins the group, it sets off an unforgettable chain of events.

When the museum’s Amazonian shrunken head is stolen, the four are determined to get it back. But their search leads them to a series of murders and an explosive secret about their pasts. This sensational new series combines the unparalleled storytelling gifts of Lauren Oliver with the rich knowledge of the notorious relics collector H. C. Chester.

What you will find in this book:

A rather attractive bearded lady
Several scandalous murders
A deliciously disgusting Amazonian shrunken head
Four extraordinary children with equally extraordinary abilities
A quite loquacious talking bird
What you will NOT find in this book:

An accountant named Seymour
A never-ending line at the post office
Brussels sprouts (shudder)
A lecture on finishing all your homework on time
A sweet, gooey story for nice little girls and boys


AK’s Review:

The book was exciting at first but it got kind of scary towards the middle. It is about four kids who try to solve many mysteries all at once. It got scary when a lot of murders happened at one time. It’s also about how four children can work together to save their home. People who like mysteries will love this book. I give the book 5 stars.


Find Curiosity House: The Shrunken Head by Lauren Oliver & H.C. Chester at the following spots:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Goodreads
ISBN-10: 0062270818
ISBN-13: 978-0062270818


Disclosure: We received a copy of this book from the publisher HarperCollins. This review nevertheless reflects our own and honest opinion about the book.


October 19, 2012

The Great Paper Caper

Title: The Great Paper Caper

Author & Illustrator: Oliver Jeffers (Interview at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast)

Publisher: Philomel Books, 2008
Book Type: Fiction
Ages: 4-8
Themes: Mystery, Conservation, Animals

Opening Lines:

“There was a time in the forest … when everything was not as it should have been. Everyone who lived there had been noticing strange things. Branches, they agreed, should not disappear from tress like that.”

Synopsis (from Penguin website):

The animals’ homes are disappearing. Tree by tree, the forest is being cut down. Clues! There must be clues. For instance, look – there is a mysterious bear carrying an ax! But what would a bear want with so many trees? Perhaps the discarded paper airplanes littering the forest floor have a story to tell?

Oliver Jeffers’ quirky, childlike humor and lovable illustrations are in full effect in this funny whodunit featuring a winning cast of animals and a message about the importance of conservation and recycling.



  • Visual literacy activity.
  • Discussion guide.
  • For upper elementary/middle-school kids – reading activity that helps develop critical thinking skills. Student reads an on-line mystery story, discusses the key details and attempts to figure out the solution.


  • Make paper airplanes.  Paper Airplanes HQ provides instructions of how to make 50 different types of paper airplanes. Text and visual instructions are provided.
  •  Make your own recycled paper! Video and text instructions.

Why I Like This Book:

A quirky, imaginative introduction to the “whodunit” genre for young readers with a message of conservation, recycling, and forgiveness thrown-in. The game is afoot, when the forest animals investigate to find out who is ruining their forest home. Someone is chopping down branches and littering the ground with paper airplanes. The characters play detective and then later judge and jury. The ending is not your typical conclusion to a crime story … but in some ways it is actually better, it has a message of forgiveness and helping out.

The book is useful for introducing “big” word from the justice system such as alibi, evidence, prosecutor, eyewitness report, and more.

The illustrations are child-like and a bit silly. The color palette changes beautifully with each season. Unfortunately some of the drawings of the characters are kind of small, so this best read in small groups.

Above is the opening spread which completely hooked my kids, who wouldn’t be interested in this cast of cooky characters that live underground. My kids noticed that all the character’s legs looked like sticks.

This spread above is when the characters come to the conclusion that someone has been stealing the branches and they begin suspecting each other. My kids would verbalize each character’s accusatory thoughts. This is one of the great things about this book. There is so much going on in the illustrations that isn’t said in the text. For example  the accompanying text for the spread is “Someone, they agreed again, must be stealing them, and they each in turn blamed the other.” The artwork carries the rich details of the story.

This book also contains many, many visual clues that kids can piece together and infer the answer. Kids will enjoy being one-step ahead of the characters.

A great read for young and old. Don’t forget to check-out the cool endpages, a manual on how to make paper airplanes.

Picture book writers should definitely study each page and take note of what parts of the mystery are revealed through text versus art.

This review is part of Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book series. Visit her site to see the other books recommended.

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