Thursday, October 25, 2012

Realistic Fiction Mystery Chapter Book

Four-time Edgar Award winner and "half-Texan" Joan Lowery Nixon set this mystery for 8-12 year-olds in Texas, and incorporates a historical event and genealogy to boot. Seventh-grader Andy Thomas has to do a family history project for school. His family and that of his best friend J.J. have lived in the (real) town of Hermosa, Texas, for generations, and Andy discovers a black sheep among his ancestors. Talking about this Cole Joseph Bonner upsets and embarrasses Andy's great aunt, particularly around J.J's great-grandmother, but Andy persists in trying to find out just what happened with "Coley Joe."

I loved how Andy uses a box of memorabilia in his great aunt's attic (including a family bible, an old photograph, and an heirloom), e-mail and genealogy bulletin boards (the book was published in 1996), library research (including asking the librarian for help--hooray!), and visits to the local cemetery to help solve the mystery. The Salt War is the real event that provides a setting for part of the story.

I can totally see Search for the Shadowman being used for interdisciplinary studies in a 4th to 7th grade classroom, particularly for Texas history required in those two grades. It could also be used by a parent to spark a child's interest in genealogy and/or family history (there's a Bonner family tree at the beginning of the book) and ways to research them. There are also some nice lessons about friendship and respect for elders in the book as well.

© Amanda Pape - 2012

[Search for the Shadowman, by Joan Lowery Nixon, can be found in the Curriculum Collection on the lower level of the Dick Smith Library, call number EDUC PZ7 .N65 SD 1996.  A variation of this post can be found on Bookin' It.]

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