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Tween books call for puzzle prowess

10/24/2012 3:02 PM

10/29/2012 1:51 PM

All of these books contain storylines heavily influenced by puzzles, which both the characters and the reader must decipher in order to solve a mystery. So stretch your brain muscles a little, sit back, and enjoy. If you like these titles, ask your local librarian for help finding similar stories.

The Puzzling World of Winston Breen

by Eric Berlin

Puffin, 2009

For ages: 10 and up

Winston Breen loves puzzles. He has never met one he couldn't eventually solve. So, when his sister discovers some mysterious strips of wood with words printed on them hidden inside an antique box, he immediately knows this is something big. Sure enough, the strips are the start of a puzzle-filled adventure that leads him and a few other eccentric characters on a scavenger hunt to find a valuable hidden ring. Along the way there are death threats, frantic searches and a loveable librarian. In addition to the puzzles that locate the hidden jewelry, there are puzzles for the reader to solve, with answers and explanations at the back of the book.

If you enjoy this story, there are two more books in the series.

The Mysterious Benedict Society

by Trenton Lee Stewart

Brown Books for Young Readers, 2008

For ages: 10 and up

Poison apples ... poison worms ... what does it all mean and how is it being used to manipulate people's minds? This is the task set out for the Mysterious Benedict Society to solve. Recruited through a vague newspaper ad requesting gifted children looking for special opportunities, a group of four children are pulled into a secret mission requiring them to face mental and physical challenges beyond their wildest dreams. And to finally solve the puzzle -- and save the world -- the only people they truly can count on are each other.

This is the first book of a series.

The Gollywhopper Games

by Jody Feldman

Greenwillow Books, 2009

For ages: 10 and up

Gil is certain that winning the Golly Toy & Game Company's ultimate competition will change his life. He knows everything about the company -- his father used to work there, and Gil has been studying trivia for months. But does he know enough to figure out the puzzles? To survive the stunts? To overcome cheating competitors? The contestants have their own strengths and weaknesses. Set in a glorious toy factory full of rainbow elements, palm trees and every game imaginable, the book's allusions to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl are not accidental. Feldman wrote the book after a student at a school library asked for a similar story and none existed. The Gollywhopper Games is a fine tribute to being smart, loyal and kind.

The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon (I Mean Noel)

by Ellen Raskin

Puffin, 1971

For ages: 10 and up

Married as children to solidify a business deal, Caroline Fish and her husband, Leon Carillon, are on a boat when he falls overboard and disappears. His last words to his young bride are "Noel (glub) see (blub) all ... I (glub) new ..." Vowing to dress only in clothes identical to the ones Leon last saw her in, adopting two orphans and desperately trying to locate her missing husband based on his last cryptic message, Caroline begins a search that lasts many years. Full of footnoted clues, zany slapstick, silly humor, horse races, a soup factory, mistaken identity and a surprising revelation about Leon (I mean Noel), this book is written in a unique style readers will thoroughly enjoy and not soon forget.

I, Q: Independence Hall

by Roland Smith

Sleeping Bear Press, 2009

For ages: 10 and up

Thirteen-year-old Q and his stepsister Angela have out-of-the-ordinary parents -- they're rock stars who live on tour buses. Even more out of the ordinary are Q and Angela, who have been approached by the Secret Service for help in unmasking a mysterious spy. Armed with his knowledge of magic tricks, some cool spy gear, a secret BlackBerry and a stepsister descended from a spy herself, Q is thrust into a series of coincidences that suddenly mean everything. This is James Bond for the junior set, and nothing at all is what it seems. Part mystery, part action and part thriller, this book sucks you in and lets the puzzle unfold for the reader along with the lead characters.

The third book in the "I, Q" series was released in September.

The Westing Game

by Ellen Raskin

Puffin, 1979

For ages: 10 and up

Sixteen tenants move into Sunset Towers and then discover they are heirs to Sam Westing's multimillion-dollar fortune. To get the cash, however, they first have to solve a series of puzzles that often seem random and obtuse but ultimately will reveal who murdered Westing. The heirs are assigned to work in pairs and are given sets of clues that are various phrases from America the Beautiful. Predictably, chaos ensues. This Newbery Award-winning book uses distinctive, likeable characters to unravel the mystery and bring readers to a shocking (but hopeful) conclusion. Everyone has something on the line -- fame, fortune, love -- but can any one of them succeed at winning the Westing game?

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