As I've previously mentioned, I've spent a great deal of time this summer looking for books to both challenge Meg while maintaining her love of reading. Lest you think my research has all been selfless, during this research I have happened upon two mystery series with which I have absolutely fallen in love.
The first is the Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters. Earlier in the summer, it occurred to me that Meg might enjoy an Agatha Christie book because, like me, she enjoys a good mystery. I went online to research which title might be best for a nine year old. In that research I came across a thread of other mystery series recommendations. Amelia Peabody caught my eye.
The Amelia Peabody series is set in the Victorian and Edwardian period of England and Egypt. Amelia Peabody and her husband are Egyptologists and they encounter their mysteries during their archaeological digs. The books are written in the first person and the reader quickly learns that Amelia is not always the most reliable narrator. She never wants to present herself as overly emotional or weak. Therefore, she might gloss over her own emotional reactions or might not fully admit when she is wrong about something. This unreliability simply adds to the humor of the books.
The books were written by Egyptologist Barbara Mertz under the pen name Elizabeth Peters. She is incredibly knowledgeable about her subject, but these books never become text books. Mertz kept her academic writing quite separate from her mystery writing. The Amelia Peabody series is funny and entertaining, though certainly informative in a cursory way. Historical figures from Egyptian archaeology are placed among fictional characters and certainly the reader will learn a fair amount about Egyptian history.
I began by reading the fifth book in the Amelia Peabody series, The Deeds of the Disturber.
I soon read the first book in the series, Crocodile on the Sandbank. This book tells the story of Amelia's first trip to Egypt and of her meeting Radcliffe Emerson. I quickly followed this with reading The Curse of the Pharoahs, which introduces Amelia's precocious son, Ramses. On our recent trip to The Book Barn in Niantic, Connecticut, I purchased as many books in the Amelia Peabody series as I could find, because I am finding it hard to locate earlier books in the series in libraries.
While I have been enjoying the Amelia Peabody series, it is not the only series I have discovered this summer. At our Harry Potter Party, a fellow mom suggested that Meg might enjoy the Flavia de Luce series. This is an unusual mystery series in that it is not really a juvenile book, but it does have an 11-year-old narrator. We've yet to find out if Meg is ready for the Flavia de Luce series, but I can tell you that the first book in this series is one of my favorite all time reads.
The de Luce ancestral home just happens to have a chemistry lab that once belong to a partially brilliant, partially crazy predecessor and Flavia happily takes it over and develops a somewhat disturbing fondness for poisons.
In The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, the first book of the series, Flavia becomes a detective by necessity when she finds a dying man on her property and she soon realizes her father will be blamed for the man's murder. She investigates by riding her bike, which she has named Gladys, around the village, interviewing older residents and reading through old newspapers.
This book is so incredibly charming. It is written by Canadian author Alan Bradley, who took up fiction writing at nearly 70 years old. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is his first novel and deservedly won numerous awards. His descriptions are fantastic and unique. His characters are splendidly quirky. I believe there are now eight books in this series and I cannot wait to read them all.