ellen raskin

Bespoke Book Lists: Books Like the Mysterious Benedict Society

One of my favorite people just finished racing through The Mysterious Benedict Society and itssequels and wanted to know what she should read next. So B, this one’s for you!

The Mysterious Benedict Society
By Trenton Lee Stewart
 
Chasing Vermeer
By Blue Balliett
The Wright 3
By Blue Balliett
The Calder Game
By Blue Balliett

If you enjoyed reading about smart kids banding together to solve a mystery, check out Blue Baillett’s books, starting with Chasing Vermeer and continuing with The Wright 3 and The Calder Game. Petra, Calder, and Tommy are intelligent, resourceful detectives, who use math and problem-solving skills to solve art mysteries. Oh, that makes these books sound kind of stodgy, but I promise, they're not!

 

Want more brain-teasing puzzles? Pick up The Puzzling World of Winston Breen. (You can follow up with The Potato Chip Puzzles and The Puzzler’s Mansion.) Winston loves puzzles, and you can solve them right along with him as you work your way through this book and follow Winston on a hunt for a hidden inheritance.

 

Have you read The Westing Game yet? Because, if not, you should go and read it right now. Turtle is as smart as Renny, as resourceful as Kate, and almost as stubborn as Constance as she tries to solve the clues to win millionaire Samuel Westing’s inheritance. It’s one of my favorite books.

OK, The Farwalker’s Quest (first in the FarwalkerTrilogy) is a fantasy book, so it’s not set in the real world like The Mysterious Benedict Society is. But friends Ariel and Zeke have to be just as brave and clever as the Society when they discover a magical artifact that forces them into an adventure that’s far away from their ordinary lives.

In another series that puts a fantasy twist on adventure, 12-year-old Stephanie Edgley, in the Skulduggery Pleasant series, teams up with the eponymous undead detective-slash-sorcerer to protect the world from the evil and manipulative Nefarian Serpine. Stephanie is everything you could want in a heroine: smart, sassy, brave, and often hilarious. I think you might love this series.

 

The Gollywhopper Games
By Jody Feldman
The Seems: The Glitch in Sleep
By Michael Wexler, John Hulme

Forgive it for borrowing so obviously from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and I think you might enjoy The Gollywhopper Games, too. Gil Goodson is determined to win the Golly Toy & Game Company’s ultimate competition, and you’ll be right there with him, mastering trivia and solving puzzles, to get to the finish line. (The next two books in the series are fun, too.)

You might also enjoy Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, in which game-loving Kyle and his new friends must solve clues and secret puzzles to find their way out of the library belonging to the world’s most notorious game maker. This one might be a fun read-aloud.

If you don’t mind your books getting a bit silly, check out The Glitch in Sleep, the first book in the Seems series. The book’s premise — that our world is actually constructed somewhere else, from pre-packaged dreams for your sleep to a giant water tank that regulates precipitation — is kind of delightful, and Becker Drane, newly promoted Fixer, is about to face a Glitch in the Department of Sleep. You'll find lots of high-tech shenanigans and much silly fun to be had.


Summer Reading: The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon (I Mean Noel)

Take one soup heiress on a mission, two unconnected Siamese twins, a crossword puzzle expert in a crash helmet, and a mysteriously incomplete message, and you have The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon (I Mean Noel), a twisty-turny puzzle of a book that’s part melancholy tragedy, part slapstick hilarity, and part interactive detective fiction. If you’ve read The Westing Game (and if you haven’t, you should probably stop reading this and go read it immediately — I'll wait), you already know that Ellen Raskin is diabolically clever, fond of puzzles and planting clues in plain sight. In The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon (I Mean Noel), Raskin goes even further, directly encouraging the reader to participate in solving the mystery. (Mark this page! Remember this fact; it’s important!)

The story itself is simple: Mrs. Carillon is married at age seven to her neighbor and co-soup dynasty heir, Leon, who promptly goes away to school for fourteen years and changes his name to Noel. When he finally sends for her, their first conversation as adults is interrupted by a terrible boating accident: He only has time to gasp out a few word fragments before Mrs. Carillon is knocked out. When she wakes up in the hospital, Leon (I mean Noel) is gone, and Mrs. Carillon thinks the key to his location lies in his waterlogged message. She sets out to solve the puzzle and find her husband with vim and vigor. Along the way, she acquires a set of twins and reconnects with an old friend, who the twins think would make a much better husband for their adopted mother than the erstwhile Leon (I mean Noel). Once you read this book, you’ll see Raskin’s influence in all kinds of places: the solicitous narrator of A Series of Unfortunate Events and the complex codes of Blue Baillet’s books come immediately to mind.

 

We're reprinting some of Amy's summer reading series favorites from Atlanta Homeschool magazine on the home/school/life blog.