July 8, Who Stole Grandma’s Million Dollar Pumpkin Pie?
One thing mystery writers know for sure, if you don’t have a good puzzle to solve, you don’t have diddly. Well, maybe diddly isn’t in the mystery writer’s handbook, but you get the drift. And building suitable, engaging puzzles in mysteries geared toward children is essential.
What I loved about Martha Freeman’s book, Who Stole Grandma’s Million Dollar Pumpkin Pie, A Chickadee Court Mystery ($16.95, Holiday House), was the clever engaging way she blended mystery and humor. What really impressed me and got my old writer’s juices pumping was how she absolutely left the mystery solving to the kids.
Alex Parakeet and Yasmeen are eleven-year-old neighbors and friends. The pair have already established themselves as being mystery solvers when a few days before Alex’s dad is set to appear on a live television broadcast reproducing his mother’s delicious pumpkin pie, the recipe disappears from the binder.
Who among them could have taken it?
Alex and Yasmeen are determined to get an answer. Some interesting facts to take away from the story to use in your writing:
Pay close attention to the almost farcical names of people and places. Freeman does a great job of getting just to the edge of going over the top, then pulling back. The town’s big football team is called the Knightly Tigers. The fancy important chef who is set to host the show on which Alex’s dad plans to appear is Zooey Bonjour. What reader could forget a name like that?
Then there is the structure of the mystery, which hinges around the disappearance of grandma’s recipe. Alex’s dad is a great cook and an awesome dad, but he’s also a bit scatterbrained. Which is why, even though he’s made the pie before, he can’t for the life of him remember grandma’s secret recipe.
Alex and the gang take us along in a fast-paced race to find the recipe, nab the culprit and decipher grandma’s code for the missing ingredient.
Freeman delivers a delightful blend of food, family, fun and friendship. Young mystery fans are sure to be pleased. Novice mystery writers should come away with an encouraging recipe for building a tasty tale any publisher would be proud to have on its menu.