The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner's Dilemna by Trenton Lee Stewart

July is On the Job
All the stories for July involve kids solving mysteries, figuring out clues, and in general being pretty amazing. From beating grown ups to the next clue, to catching the bad guys in the act, to blowing away the competition with a little magic, these kids are On the Job, making sure the good guys win.
The gang is all back, and still hot on the trail of Mr. Benedict's evil twin brother, Mr. Curtain. As if it wasn't bad enough to have to worry about the 10 Men, and all of Mr. Curtain's plots, the government plans to take away the Whisperer from Mr. Benedict's careful watch!

The children know that Ledroptha is going to try something, and they have to do something to stop him. Without really knowing what to do, they are at the mercy of the adults--which we all know is no fun. The biggest problem arises when one of Mr. Curtain's associates comes to adopt Constance with some phoney documents. Will they really let him take Constance away? It's up to her to try and remember her past, from before she made her way to Mr. Benedict's tests, and try to figure out her true origins.

Everything turns to chaos when the entire city suffers a blackout! The children know this is the best chance for Mr. Curtain to steal the Whisperer, and blame it on Mr. Benedict ... but what can they do? With everyone running around, trying to fix the blackout, the children decide to take matters into their own hands. It won't be easy, but with the four of them - Stinky, Reynie, Kate, and Constance - they've got the know-how to outwit Mr. Curtain, and his group of evildoers.

The in-book puzzles are always fun to solve along with the characters, and this is a great series for kids who enjoy being involved in the story.
"'After I woke up and composed myself, however, I realized the flowers must certainly be yours, Constance, to do with as you please. At any rate - " Mr.Benedict broke off, for just then Constance jumped to her feet, snatched the bouquet from his desk, and hurled it into the wastebasket with all the force she could muster - so hard that flower petals flew up out of the wastebasket like tiny pink butterflies. Then placing her hands against the wall to steady herself, she stomped one foot repeatedly into the wastebasket as if trying to put out a fire. 'I see we are of the same opinion,' said Mr. Benedict as Constance returned to her seat, and the others congratulated her on her judgment." (Trenton, 2009).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey by Trenton Lee Stewart (Book 2)
The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry
If You're Reading This, It's Too Late by Pseudonymous Bosch

Stewart, Trenton Lee. (2009). The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner's Dilemma. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.

The Alchemyst by Michael Scott

Sophie and Josh are twins, they work across the street from each other, and their part time jobs are dedicated to saving up money to buy a car. Their parents are archaeologists, so they are gone on digs a lot, and the twins have had to learn to watch out for themselves. When Sophie sees a mysterious man in black walk into the bookstore where Josh works, she's worried. When she sees that the men with him have no faces...she's terrified!

It turns out the owners of the bookstore, the Flemings, are really Nicholas and Perenel Flamel, immortal humans in possesion of a powerful book of alchemy and magic: the Codex. Abraham the Mage wrote down his life work centuries ago, and the Flamels are the newest guardians of the tome. The book is coveted by the Dark Elders, who want to use it to return to Earth. Their human servant, John Dee, has been chasing the Flamels across the world for centuries trying to get his hands on the book. Taking them by surprise in the shop, Dee gets all but the last 2 pages of the Codex...the pages needed to summon the Elders back to our world.

Suddenly, Sophie and Josh are plunged into a story that seems more fantasy than reality, as they are whisked away to the Shadowrealms to escape Dee. Perenel is captured, and Flamel flees with the children, afraid he cannot defeat Dee. He enlists the help of Scathach, the Shadow, a famous Next-Generation Elder who created martial arts. Together, they go to Bastet to awaken Sophie's powers.

Flamel is convinced that the twins are the Twins of Legend who will save mankind. But Dee finds them, is always on their tail, and tells Josh that Flamel may not be all that he seems. Are Sophie and Josh really who Flamel thinks they are? Is Dee the bad guy, or just misunderstood? Can they be awakened and learn the elemental magics to save the world?

Love, love, LOVE this series. I enjoy the allusions to famous characters sprinkled throughout, and the storytelling. Truly a great read, can't wait for the next book!

"Sophie was about to turn away, when the grey man suddenly spun around and seemed to stare directly at her. Standing under the awning, his face was in shadow, and yet for just the briefest instant, his eyes looked as if they were glowing. Sophie knew—just knew—that there was no possible way for the small grey man to see her: she was standing on the opposite side of the street behind a pane of glass that was bright with reflected early afternoon sunlight. She would be invisible in the gloom behind the glass.
And yet . . ." (Scott, 2007).

*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
The Magician by Michael Scott (Book 2)
The Time Travelers by Linda Buckley-Archer
The Hound of Rowan by Henry Neff

Scott, Michael. (2007). The Alchemyst: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel. New York, NY: Delacourt Press.

The 39 Clues: Maze of Bones by Rick Riordan

Amy and Dan Cahill are grieving over the loss of their beloved grandmother. After her funeral, there is the reading of the will. It comes as a real surprise to them when they are asked to give up their inheritance for a clue...what is all of this about? There are several other members of the family present who seem to know what's going on, and that is even More confusing! What are these 39 clues that everyone keeps whispering about?

After accepting the challenge, Amy and Dan start off on a international search with their babysitter Nellie. At every turn they are followed (or chased!) by the other teams competing. So much for family togetherness! Even Uncle Alistair, who seems to be on their side, takes off whenever it's convenient. It seems they can only trust each other.

The more they learn about the illustrious Cahill family, the more they start to doubt their grandmother. Why did Grace never tell them that they were decended from some of the most famous people in history: Marie Curie, Benjamin Franklin, Mozart...the list goes on. The four branches: Lucian, Tomas, Ekaterina, and Janus must compete for the 39 clues, and the winner will be one of the most powerful people in the world! But they continue the search, because what do they have to return to...their parents passed away when they were young, and their grandmother is dead now.

Can Amy and Dan solve the puzzle and reach the first clue before the others? A fantastic series, recommended for 3rd grade and up. Good for fans of the Magic Tree House series, as well as any mystery lovers. The series is written by various authors which lends a feeling of excitement to each installment. The online component allows you to follow along, and help solve clues as well. Great for reluctant readers!

"You have been chosen as the most likely to succeed in the greatest, most perilous, undertaking of all time - a quest of vital important to the Cahill family and the world at large..." (Riordan pg. 16, 2008).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
One False Note by Gordon Korman (Book 2, 39 Clues)
Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
The Alchemyst by Michael Scott

Riordan, Rick. (2008). Maze of Bones. New York, NY: Scholastic.

The Calder Game by Blue Balliett

Calder can't wait to go on the trip with his dad. He and his friends, Petra and Tommy, are having a rough year with their teacher. She almost managed to ruin a trip to the museum to see an exhibit on his namesake, Alexander Calder, the famous mobile maker! Calder's more than ready for some freedom to learn what he wants to learn.

On their trip to the museum to see the Calder exhibit, they learn about the Calder Game. The point is to make your own mobile, using whatever you would like. The only restriction is that each mobile must contain at least 3 components. As the kids ponder this, Calder leaves for a trip to Europe with his dad.

One of the first things they notice about Woodstock, England is the Calder statue in the middle of town, the Minotaur. Not everyone in town is as excited about it as Calder and his father; in fact, many seem to be very vehemently against it! There are some suspicious characters around town, and a famous Bleinheim Park maze that fascinates him. While Calder's dad attends the landscaping conference, Calder wanders around town. The night after he visits the maze, however, he disappears ... along with the statue of the Minotaur!

Upon hearing of his disappearance, Petra and Tommy fly to England to help look for him. The mystery of the missing Calder (times 2) has the kids stumped for a while, until they get some help from an unlikely source. Can the kids find Calder before it's too late?

Another great book by Blue Balliett, illustrated by Brett Helquist, and full of great mysteries for readers to solve along the way. A real gem for reluctant readers, art lovers, and mystery solvers.
"'Don't forget: You are never finished looking at a Calder mobile. Everything you see is shifting, in process - a sight that shouts, HERE! NOW! and reminds you that each second of your life holds its own world of experience." Ms. Hussey paused for breath, and the three grinned. 'So there!' She nodded, hands on hips," (Balliett pg. 46, 2008).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett
The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

The Name of This Book is Secret by Pseudonymous Bosch

Balliett, Blue. Helmquist, Brett, Ill. (2008). The Calder Game. New York, NY: Scholastic Press.