A to Z Mysteries

A to Z cover

 A to Z Mysteries Super Edition #8: Secret Admirer (A Stepping Stone Book(TM))

 By Ron Roy, Illustrated by John Steven Gurney


Published by: Random House Books for Young Readers (December 22, 2015)

Available in: paperback, library binding, Kindle, NOOK

At the time of this review there were eight books in this series as well as 26 books in the original A to Z alphabet series.


It’s a mystery….

Actually, there’s no mystery why the A to Z Mysteries, in their first rendition of 26 alphabet-inspired books, and now under the guise of Super Editions, are so popular. Kids love mysteries, they love series, and this gives them a heaping dose of both.

The most recent of the A to Z Mysteries Super Edition books, Secret Admirer entices kids’ intrigue even before chapter one. The first page tells the reader to look for hidden letters within the illustrations and map, and challenges them to find the secret message. Who can resist that? The answer is given at the back of the book, so no frustrations if a child can’t decipher the message.

Author Roy, perhaps one of the most prolific in contemporary children’s literature, also writes both Capital Mysteries and Calendar Mysteries series. So if kids like these books, there’s more to be had from him.

Do I love these books? Not really. I find too many characters right at the start, and the writing is a little lazy. To wit, this paragraph, where originality and engaging descriptions take a back seat to just getting it done: “The kids reached the hotel and shoved open the thick glass door. Inside it was warm and smelled good.” I also find the illustrations serviceable but without pop or pizzazz.

Do I respect these books? Absolutely. The author and publisher give kids a lot of what they need at this point in their reading life: the thrilling intrigue of the mystery, characters they can follow from book to book, and the comfort of easy reading within the challenge of a full book. The fact that author Roy is successful at producing so much work is truly impressive and inspiring.

What do you say teachers, parents and writers? Use the comment below and let’s chat….

Bailey School Kids

dracula cover


By Debbie Dadey and Marcia T. Jones, Illustrated by John Steven Gurney


Published by: Scholastic Paperbacks (June 1, 2004)

Available in: paperback

At the time of this review there were 51 books in The Adventures of the Bailey School Kids series.


Kids love consistency.

Especially when they are just becoming independent readers, kids love a series. They love to spend time with the same characters, go to the same place and know that something interesting will happen. They might not know what will happen, but the fact that the framework stays the same is comforting and friendly.

The Adventures of the Bailey School Kids is a hugely successful series that gives kids that framework. The same four friends, two girls and two boys, guide readers through each book. They bicker and play jokes, say stupid stuff and act silly. They also run into someone who might or might not be from the mythical world. There is a mystery incident or question that the four friends try to figure out. It’s an easy, fast read shared with known friends in a safe (aside from that mythical character) environment. It’s a good place for kids to feel comfortable in their new-found literacy.

Dracula Doesn’t Play Kickball is just one of the many, many books in this series. Others include characters such as a wolfman, mermaid, swamp monster, gremlin, pirate and more. In addition, there is a prequel series, holiday specials, joke books and more. For kids who get hooked, they will probably grow out of the series before they run out of books to read.

Is the writing stellar or fresh? Are the illustrations exciting? Is there anything truly exceptional going on? Not really. But perhaps, at this stage in reading, this enough. Certainly many series don’t pan out, and the fact that the Bailey School Kids are alive and well makes them reliable friends. And anyone—young readers included—can never have too many friends.

What do you say teachers, parents and writers? Use the comment below and let’s chat….