Today on Mystery Mondays we have Ann Morris. She’s sharing her experience with Children’s Books. She’s tackling a subject we haven’t covered yet, so get ready for an interesting read.
Ann (Ana) Morris on Using Mystery in Children’s Books
Who likes a good mystery? Many of us do. A good mystery maintains interest and allows the reader to speculate and test his/her deduction skills based on the clues given. I’ve always loved a good mystery.
How many of you have thought about children liking mysteries? Not the scary ones. Children are dipping their toes in the waters of reading, and dangling a carrot before them to keep their interest may be an excellent way to encourage their continued love of reading.
Children are by nature curious and love to explore. Many things are a mystery to them that we take for granted. How many of you remember the years of “What’s that?” asked of everything in sight? Or, “Why?”
Those are the early examples, but as children grow, so does their curiosity.
When I was about seven years old, a friend of mine and I shared curiosity for the destination of a stairway that descended from the street near our houses. One day we decided to explore it. We descended the stairway and found ourselves in a huge parking lot that belonged to a huge meat-packing plant.
We knew Hormel was there. We smelled it often. There was a lot of space, so we continued to walk. Of course, we hadn’t considered that anyone may miss us since we had begun this adventure spontaneously.
My parents at that time had only one car, so my mother couldn’t look far for me. She was beside herself with fear. My friend Liz and I were not afraid. We were on a hike. As Mom frantically called neighbors and physically started looking for us, she learned that someone had seen two little girls following that staircase.
She asked neighbors until she found one that we both knew with a car. Mr. Brown. Greg Brown’s dad (another neighborhood friend of mine). As Liz and I walked around and noticed the space with awe, a car pulled up beside us and the gentleman addressed me by name. I looked at him, and he told me he was Greg’s dad. I then recognized the car. (This was the late 1950s, early 1960s, when that was possible.)
Mr. Brown told me my mom was very worried and had sent him to bring us home. He asked why we were down here? We sincerely answered that we were on a hike. We wanted to know where the stairway led.
He reasoned with us, and we got into the car to return home, without satisfying all of our curiosity, but having a safe ending. Of course, my mom was very glad to see me safe, and I was promptly grounded from leaving the yard, but it was the curiosity that drove us.
In my children’s books, I always seek a “carrot” to keep the interest of my readers. My stories are usually based on true stories. Sometimes I need to create the carrot, but my very first book, “Mommy and Mikel Go for a Walk”/”Mami y Mikel dan un paseo” is as true as can be, written about twenty-five years after the adventure. My son (Mikel) has always been curious and fearless. This particular day during my limited vacation days, we went for a walk in the nearest park. It had a path that lead to a lower area with bike paths. I included the observant safety measures that I know my own mom would have loved to be able to use.
We encountered birds, plants, flowers, and Mikel had questions for all of them. They were teaching moments for me, and he was happy to have immediate answers. Finally, Mikel saw an animal in the river that I didn’t even know how to identify. Bingo! Our mystery!
Of course, he would have been happy to jump in the river and ask its name, but I had a safer idea. We went to the library. This was before the Internet, so I took one look at the animal books and decided to move on to something more direct. Fortunately, I had a memory of an uncle who used to raise animals that resembled the one in the water. I merely had never seen one in the wild. The ones I had seen were in cages.
I perused the dictionary which had a photo that looked promising. That led me to the encyclopedias. When I found the animal I suspected in the encyclopedias, I called Mikel to me. He was soooo glad to find an answer to our mystery animal. He remembers that story to this day. He especially remembers that HE was the one who saw the animal first.
It was an American Mink.
That was a children’s mystery and adventure, and it was age appropriate.
Adult mysteries challenge our observation skills, our memories, and our deduction skills. Personally, I love a read that makes me think. I’ve read mysteries that had predictable endings. I prefer the ones that keep my curiosity prime.
I’ve also read mysteries with such tangled plots and so many characters that when I finished the book, I hardly remembered what I had read.
Mysteries need a plot that intrigues, drops clues, challenges the reader yet stays a step ahead of him or her, and has a realistic or feasible ending.
A well written mystery is a gem.
I try to challenge children to safely follow their curiosity and learn about life’s mysteries. Following childlike curiosity with a trusted adult is a safe and healthy way to encourage learning.
Thank you for letting me share a different angle of mystery with you! My website is www.authorannmorris. Feel free to visit my site and answer some of the questions you may now have about me!
And A little more about Ann:
Ann (Ana for Spanish books) Morris has a deep interest in education. She knows that children have vivid imaginations and an insatiable love of learning. Morris developed an interest in writing children’s stories with the intention of recording memorable experiences with young family members sprinkled with memories of her own youth.
As a teacher and as a community worker, Morris has collaborated with and served people from many cultures new to our country, including our Latino friends. She speaks and writes Spanish as well as English. Her hopes are to encourage children and parents learning to read their native language, as well as to motivate language learners. She includes a positive adult role model, a curious child and a unique learning experience in each story.
Ann (Ana) Morris is the author of
- Mommy and Mikel Go for a Walk/Mikel y Mami dan un paseo
- Surprise in Auntie’s Garden!/¡Sorpresa en el jardín de la tía!
- Everything Is Different/Todo es distinto
She has other works in progress and many other memories yet to record.