A week at home with a cold with my son and husband gave me an appreciation for what quarantined families are feeling, especially with many schools closing. Perhaps the most difficult age groups to keep amused are our tweens. I may have some ideas for those bored 8-13 year olds.
In Search of Watson (Sherlock Holmes and the Baker Street Irregulars #3) by Tracy Mack and Michael Citrin
I enjoy stocking The Bookbubble store because I get to spend time browsing books. I often end up buying stories I want to read myself, but of course there are so many books and so little time.
I picked up In Search of Watson quite some time ago thinking what’s not to like about this book—I mean what a great twist on Sherlock Holmes, cases seen through the eyes of the street urchins who helped him solve cases? Still, it kept moving tot he bottom of my reading pile, perhaps because it is written for the tween (8-13) market, and these books are often not as big a juicy as YA books, or as entertaining as picture books.
This week I had a cold, and in the Coronavirus world we live in at the moment I kept myself away from work. Bored, and with a stinking headache this was the perfect read. As I curled up on the sofa with my book I kept asking myself why I had waited for so long to read it.
Not only is there a great story-line—death and a missing diary lead to a race to find ancient treasure under the streets of London—but then Dr Watson is kidnapped. Asked to find the good Doctor by Sherlock Holmes, the Baker Street irregulars are thwarted at every turn by another gang, and it seems they have a traitor in their midst.
There are also great characters; Pilar who is trying to gain acceptance into he group, Ozzie who is looking for his father and Wiggins who leads the Irregulars. All your favourite Sherlock Holmes characters are there too; Sherlock himself, Dr Watson and, of course, Moriarty.
The story line is fast paced and full of adventurous turns, the characters are engaging and the twist at the end is well hidden. There are cyphers and history and all wrapped in a book that children and adults will enjoy. I started at book three, but will be looking for the rest of the books in this series—well done Mack and Citrin.
A bonus if you are stuck at home, this books has end matter including details on how to make a simple cypher, and a little bit of history that could be turned into activities for your bored tweens.
The Merlin Conspiracy by Diana Wynne Jones
Walking the dog is a great way for me to unwind. I used to listen to music as I walked, but I’ve recently rediscovered the power of audiobooks. Having used all my audible credits I was searching in the library for something to read and I stumbled across a book I bought for Sam when he was sick and bored at home. At the time he had an obsession with King Arthur and Merlin, he loved listening to the How to Train your Dragon books read by David Tennant and so with the Merlin Conspiracy I was onto a winner—for him.
I knew this would be an easy book to listen to as Amelia Fox joined David Tennant narrating the story, but what surprised me was how good the book was.
Amelia Fox was Arianrhrod, a young witch travelling with the King’s Progress renewing the magic in Blessed—a different version of Britain. David Tennant took on the role of Nick, a boy from another version of earth, wishing to be a great mage and, as we all know, you should be careful what you wish for.
Arianrhrod and her friend stumble upon a plot to altar magic in the Blessed Isles. In an effort to foil it the two end up travelling around the Isle getting helped and hindered by some very interesting magical talents. On their journey they stumble on the Dark Roads, where they find Nick, who is destined to help them in their quest.
Along the way they meet fantastical witches and wizards, they learn more about the magical world around them, and the multi-worlds—and perhaps even a little more about themselves.
Diana Wynne Jones’s world in The Merilyn Conspiracy is enchanting and engrossing. Children and adults alike who love books about magic would love the unique world she creates for her characters. And I am guessing the written book will appeal to tweens, who are already Harry Potter and Morrigan Crow fans.
While reading the book out loud could be a great family activity, you could also give the audio book a go, it is definitely worth it!