A Mystery

Looking for a traditional mystery novel?

“It often seems to me that’s all detective work is, wiping out your false starts and beginning again.”
“Yes, it is very true, that. And it is just what some people will not do. They conceive a certain theory, and everything has to fit into that theory. If one little fact will not fit it, they throw it aside. But it is always the facts that will not fit in that are significant.”Agatha Christie, Death on the Nile

Cobra Strike

Brouwer, Sigmund. Cobra Strike. Custer, WA: Orca Book Publishers, 2007.
“After Discovering Tainted water in the creek near his grandmother’s cabin in the Kentucky hills, senior Roy Linden slowly uncovers a connection between his high school team’s new star quarterback, his own football future, and the source of the pollution. Roy Linden should be thrilled.” – CIP.  Other novels in this sports series focus on soccer, racing, baseball, basketball and track. Written by a prolific author, this series will appeal to sports fans 12-years-old and up.


Colfer, Eoin. Half-moon Investigations. New York: Hyperion Books for Children, 2006.
“Fletcher Moon, nicknamed “Half Moon” because of his shortness, must track down a conspiracy or be framed for a crime he did not commit.” – CIP. A humorous story for 11 to 13-year-olds. [Gangs; Ireland]


Garfield, Leon. Smith. London: Puffin, 2004.
“Moments after he steals a document from a man’s pocket, an illiterate young pickpocket in eighteenth-century London witnesses the man’s murder by two men who want the document.” – CIP. Highly recommended for competent readers 12-years-old and up. Other great mysteries by Garfield: Black Jack and John Diamond[London, England; Historical fiction; Orphans; Thieves]

Quid Pro Quo

Grant, Vicki. Quid Pro Quo. Victoria: Orca Book Publishers, 2005.
“When Cyril MacIntyre’s mother disappears, Cyril must use every skill at his disposal to find and rescue her.” — CIP A humorous quick read for 11 to 13-years-old. Sequel: Res Judicata. [Canada; Lawyers; Mothers and sons]

Ghost Canoe

Hobbs, Will. Ghost Canoe. New York: Avon Books, 1998, c1997.
“Fourteen-year-old Nathan, fishing with the Makah in the Pacific Northwest, finds himself holding a vital clue when a mysterious stranger comes to town looking for Spanish treasure.” – CIP. A spell-binding adventure for readers 12-years-old and up.

The Great Trouble

Hopkinson, Deborah. The Great Trouble: A Mystery of London, the Blue Death, and a Boy Called Eel. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2013.
“Eel, an orphan, and his best friend Florrie must help Dr. John Snow prove that cholera is spread through water, and not poisonous air, when an epidemic sweeps across their London neighborhood in 1854.” – CIP. [Cholera; Epidemics; Historical fiction; London, England; Orphans]

Kidnapped The Abduction

Korman, Gordon. The Abduction. New York : Scholastic, 2006.
The first in a trilogy by a prolific Canadian author. The short novels are recommended for readers, 9 to 13-years old, who want a quick read.

Mystery at Lake Placid

MacGregor, Roy. Mystery at Lake Placid. Toronto: Tundra Books, 2013.
The first in the Screech Owl hockey series, written by a Canadian sports columnist. These short, action-packed novels are ideal for sports lovers up to 13-years-old. Website for the series: HERE

Eye of the Crow

Peacock, Shane. Eye of the Crow. Toronto: Tundra Books, 2007.First in a series of six novels about 13-year-old Sherlock Holmes. Winner of multiple awards. [Historical fiction; London, England] Website for series: HERE.

The Maze of Bones

Riordan, Rick. The Maze of Bones. New York: Scholastic Press, 2008.
The first in the lengthy 39 Clues series. Written by various well-known and competent authors, each novel furthers the adventures of Amy and Dan Cahill who discover their family has been powerful in world events throughout history.  Recommended for 9 to 12-year-olds. Website of series: HERE


Rose, Malcolm. Framed! Boston : Kingfisher, 2005.
In a futuristic London, Luke qualifies as the youngest-ever forensic investigator. But his first case is complicated by the fact that it appears he is the murderer! First in a series. Author’s website: HERE

Murder on the Canadian

Wilson, Eric. Murder on the Canadian. Toronto : HarperCollins, 1996, c1976.First in a lengthy Canadian series featuring Tom and Liz Austen, these short but well-written mystery novels will appeal to readers 11 to 14 -years-old. Author’s website: HERE

More mysteries: HERE

“As a rule, the more bizarre a thing is the less mysterious it proves to be. It is your commonplace, featureless crimes which are really puzzling, just as a commonplace face is the most difficult to identify.”
― Arthur Conan Doyle, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

Coming of Age: Novels for Young Adults

“At times the world may seem an unfriendly and sinister place, but believe that there is much more good in it than bad. All you have to do is look hard enough and what might seem to be a series of unfortunate events may in fact be the first steps of a journey.” – Lemony Snicket

What I Was

Rosoff, Meg. What I Was.  Toronto: Doubleday Canada, 2007.
“In 1960s Britain, a young boarding school student breaks rules to maintain a friendship with a reclusive teen who lives in a hut by the sea, and after his friend falls ill, learns a dark secret that changes both of their lives.” – ARBookfinder. Highly recommended for mature introspective readers in grade 8 and up. [Boarding schools; England; Friendship; Historical fiction; Homelessness; Secrets]

More young adult novels: HERE

Christopher, Lucy. The Killing Woods. New York : Chicken House/Scholastic, 2014.
“When her father, an ex-soldier suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD, is arrested for murder, Emily’s efforts to exonerate him take her into the woods to play the Game, an extreme version of childhood games.” – CIP. Recommended for readers in grade 8 and up. [Fathers and daughters; Games; Mystery and detective stories; Post-traumatic stress disorder; Young adult fiction]

More mystery novels: HERE

“It is a very strange sensation to inexperienced youth to feel itself quite alone in the world, cut adrift from every connection, uncertain whether the port to which it is bound can be reached, and prevented by many impediments from returning to that it has quitted.” – Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre

Kiely, Brendan. The Gospel of Winter. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2014.
Sixteen-year-old Aidan turns to his priest for help when his family falls apart. But after gaining his trust, his priest turns to him for sex. Aidan suffers in silence until something happens that gives him the courage to speak up. A powerful novel for mature readers. [Faith; Friendship; Priests; Secrets; Sexual abuse; Teenagers]

More novels about abuse: HERE

Yellow Line

Olsen, Sylvia.  Yellow Line. Victoria: Orca, 2005.
In Vince’s small town, the First Nations people and the white people don’t mix. Not until Vince starts dating a girl from the reserve. And everyone seems determined to separate them. A short but powerful ‘Orca Soundings’ novel for readers in grades 8 through 12.  [Bullying; Racism; Prejudice; Courage; First Nations; Love; Canada; Peer pressure; Young adult fiction]

More novels about dating: HERE

Becoming Chloe

Hyde, Catherine Ryan. Becoming Chloe. Alfred A. Knopf, 2006.
[This] is the story of Jordan who lives a lonely life in the streets. This all changes when he meets Chloe. Chloe, a small blonde girl who has also lived her life in the streets, thinks the world is ugly and full of misery. But when, Jordan takes Chloe on a road trip across the country to show her that the world is a wonderful place, they have lots of adventures, make many memories, and Chloe changes her mind. She realizes that the world really is a beautiful place. This book entertains, heals your heart, and feeds your soul. I really enjoyed reading it… – Megan. [Automobile travel; Friendship; Gays; Homelessness; New York City]

More novels about independent young adults:HERE

“Electric communication will never be a substitute for the face of someone who with their soul encourages another person to be brave and true.” – Charles Dickens

Fly into Books

“Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.” – Frederick Douglass

“Frederick Douglass taught that literacy is the path from slavery to freedom. There are many kinds of slavery and many kinds of freedom, but reading is still the path.” – Carl Sagan

“There is no such thing as a child who hates to read; there are only children who have not found the right book.” – Frank Serafini, Arizona literacy professor

It is not enough to simply teach children to read; we have to give them something worth reading. Something that will stretch their imaginations—something that will help them make sense of their own lives and encourage them to reach out toward people whose lives are quite different from their own. – Katherine Patterson

“All the secrets of the world are contained in books. Read at your own risk.” – Lemony Snicket

One and Only

Literary classics for children and adolescents: HERE

Newbery Medal winners: HERE

Realistic easy-to-read novels for adolescents: HERE

Good Places

“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”
–  Anatole France, French novelist

Everything on a Horse

Hobbie, Holly. Everything but the Horse. New York: Little, Brown, 2010.
Holly and her family move to the country. They have cats and ducks, geese and chickens. They even have a dog.  But they do not have a horse.  And a horse is what Holly longs for when she wakes up on her birthday. Cheerful full-page illustrations help tell a heart-warming story based on the author’s childhood. [Birthdays; Country life; Farm life; Horses]

More stories based on recollections: HERE

I Want a Dog

Khalsa, Dayal Kaur. I Want a Dog. Toronto: Tundra Books, 2002, c1987.
May desperately wants a dog. But her parents will not get her one. So she gets a roller skate, ties it to a leash and sets off on a walk. Lively, full-page illustrations help tell this humorous story, the winner of various awards including the Governor General’s Award and Best Children’s Book of the Year, NYPL. [Dogs; Humorous stories; Imagination; Pets]

More stories with strong female protagonists: HERE

“It is good people who make good places.”
– Anna Sewell, Black Beauty


“Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak knits up the o-er wrought heart and bids it break.”
William Shakespeare, Macbeth

Little Audrey

“In 1948, eleven-year-old Audrey  lives with her father, mother, and three younger sisters in Jewell Valley, a coal mining camp in Southwest Virginia, where her mother still mourns the death of a baby, her father goes on drinking binges on paydays, and Audrey tries to recover from the scarlet fever that has left her skinny and needing to wear glasses.” – CIP. 

“In this book I have written about a time of great trauma in my family. I have used the voice of my oldest sister, Audrey, who was eleven at the time, to tell the story in her own words as she might have done then….My sisters Yvonne and Eleanor helped me with the details of the story. We are the only ones now who remember how it was for us….” (from the preface)

“‘…I want you to remember your daddy. There’s no need to dwell on his bad habits,’ she went on. ‘Just remember the good things about him, the good times we all had together'” (140).

“Don’t be ashamed to weep; ’tis right to grieve. Tears are only water, and flowers, trees, and fruit cannot grow without water. But there must be sunlight also. A wounded heart will heal in time, and when it does, the memory and love of our lost ones is sealed inside to comfort us.” – Brian Jacques, Taggerung

More stories of poverty: HERE

More stories based on memories: HERE

“We seem to live in a world where forgetting and oblivion are an industry in themselves and very, very few people are remotely interested or aware of their own recent history, much less their neighbors’. I tend to think we are what we remember, what we know. The less we remember, the less we know about ourselves, the less we are.” – Carlos Ruiz Zafón, author of The Midnight Palace


Let There Be Peace

A Little Peace

Kerley, Barbara. A Little Peace. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic, 2007.
Full-page coloured photographs depict portraits of peace from around the world. Recommended for all ages.

“Peace begins with a smile.” – Mother Teresa

What Does Peace

Radunsky, Vladimir. What Does Peace Feel Like? New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2004.
“Simple text and illustrations portray what peace looks, sounds, tastes, feels, and smells like to children around the world.” – CIP. Recommended for children aged four to ten.

“While you are proclaiming peace with your lips, be careful to have it even more fully in your heart.”– St Frances of Assisi

Let There Be Peace

Let There Be Peace: Prayers from Around the World. Selected by Jeremy Brooks. London: Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2009.
A collection of prayers, both traditional and modern, from people of many different faiths and traditions. Highly recommended!

“In joined hands there is still some token of hope, in the clinched fist none.” – Victor Hugo, The Toilers of the Sea

The Enemy

Cali, David. The Enemy: A Book about Peace. New York: Schwartz & Wade Books, 2009.
“After watching an enemy for a very long time during an endless war, a soldier finally creeps out into the night to the other man’s hole and is surprised by what he finds there.” – CIP. Recommended for readers 11 years old and up. 

“Peace between countries must rest on the solid foundation of love between individuals.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Pauli Pastrami

Proimos, James. Paulie Pastrami Achieves World Peace. New York: Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 2009.
“Seven-year-old Paulie, an ordinary boy, brings peace to his home and school through small acts of kindness, but needs help to achieve his goal of world peace.” – CIP.  A highly recommended humorous picture book for all ages, sure to prompt laughter, discussion and reflection.

“My attitude to peace is rather based on the Burmese definition of peace – it really means removing all the negative factors that destroy peace in this world. So peace does not mean just putting an end to violence or to war, but to all other factors that threaten peace, such as discrimination, such as inequality, poverty.”– Aung San Suu Kyi, awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991

Stories of forgiveness: HERE

Stories of faith: HERE

Novels of conflicts around the world: HERE

Beauty from Ashes

When I Was Eight

Prejudice. Oppression. Abuse. Throughout history, harm has been done in the name of justice. But usually there is no justice. Only revenge.

Literature for children and young adults portrays these stories of pain and suffering. Reading them can help build understanding and compassion, but it can also lead to discouragement. What hope is there in this inhumane world?

Some stories show the possibility of a better world. And they offer this hope not by denying the reality of evil but by creating a powerful beauty. When I Was Eight, a picture book by Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton and illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard, tells a haunting story of racism against Inuit children in Canada’s residential schools. And yet the mood is not dark. Instead, the determination of the main character, Olemaun, and the rhythm of the writing combine to create a sense of hope that takes this story far behind the usual accounts of injustice in this world. 

Read this story aloud, even if you are by yourself.  Use it as a pattern for writing your own story.  Or use it to teach creative writing.  When I Was Eight is highly recommended for all readers, and listeners, eight-years-old and up.

Jordan-Fenton, Christy. When I Was Eight. Toronto: Annick Press, 2013.

More stories about aboriginal people of North America: HERE.

More stories about abuse: HERE.

More stories about the power of reading: HERE.

“By teaching us how to read, they had taught us how to get away.” Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien (New York: Aladdin Paperbacks, 1986, c1971).