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Find more Would You Like a Cupcake with That Red Herring?
From the delicious (chocolate) to the challenging (spinach-noodle cupcakes) to the outright hazardous (“so good you won’t even miss the meat” meat loaf), comestibles are often the clues in this list of food-themed youth mysteries, and middle-grade gumshoes are on the case! The nine selections below are all new-millennium titles, but food has had a memorable role in the lives of many classic kid sleuths. Who can forget Harriet the Spy’s famous tomato sandwiches? Bones and the Cupcake Mystery. By David A. Adler. Illus. by Barbara Johansen Newman. 2005. Viking, paper, $3.99 (9780142411476). K–Gr. 2.
In the third mystery in Alder’s series about detective Jeffery Bones, he must figure out who stole his friend Amy’s spinach-noodle cupcake. Who would want such an unappetizing treat? This accessible, amusing, and attractively designed mystery concludes with a recipe for spinach-noodle cupcakes, even though the book doesn’t make them sound very tasty.
The Case of the Mystery Meat Loaf. By David Lewman. 2012. Simon & Schuster/Simon Spotlight, $15.99 (9781442446465). Gr. 4–7.
After a cafeteria experiment leaves a Nevada school’s swim team with food poisoning, three young members of a forensics club launch an investigation. Along the way, the students produce the evidence needed to save the jobs of both the school cook and the science teacher, who provided the meat-loaf recipe that caused the trouble. With an easy-to-follow chain of clues and reasoning, this start to the Club CSI series should easily appeal to fans of Encyclopedia Brown.
The Falcon’s Malteser: A Diamond Brothers Mystery. By Anthony Horowitz. 2004. Puffin, paper, $6.99 (9780142402191). Gr. 4–8.
A candy box kicks off this Diamond Brothers mystery, which centers on two siblings who make up the world’s worst detective agency. Johnny Naples becomes their client when he entrusts the brothers with a mysterious box of Malteser chocolates—just before he is killed. Originally published in Britain (where it was also released in film and television versions), this pays homage to the classic book by Dashiell Hammett and the film directed by John Huston, both spoofed in the title. Horowitz’s quirky villains, nonstop action, and clever, deadpan humor create a thoroughly enjoyable read.
Farewell, My Lunchbag. By Bruce Hale. 2001. Harcourt, paper, $4.95 (9780152026295). Gr. 2–5.
When a mysterious lunchtime food snatcher causes trouble at detective Chet Gecko’s elementary school, the middle-grade lizard is on the case. With his assistant, Natalie, he interviews suspects and stakes out the cafeteria with a camera, but plans go awry, and Chet is framed. Readers looking for an offbeat mystery will appreciate how the good guy gets himself out of hot water, and Chet’s malapropisms and one-line zingers add more humorous appeal, as do Hale’s own lively cartoon drawings.
Hold the Pickles. By Vicki Grant. 2012. Orca, lib. ed., $16.95 (9781554699216). Gr. 5–8.
Desperate to make some money so that he can do something about his scrawny physique, Dan Hogg, 15, agrees to work for his uncle handing out samples at the Food Fantasia Fun Fair, even though the job involves dressing up in foam as a high-fiber hot dog. Using garbage bags and toilet paper, Dan tries to disguise his identity from local bullies, but they come after him and someone takes his money. Who is the thief? This short novel in the Orca Currents series for reluctant readers combines everyday scenarios with a clever mystery that ends with a surprising revelation about the identity of the pickpocket.
Humpty Dumpty Jr., Hardboiled Detective, in the Case of the Fiendish Flapjack Flop. By Nate Evans and Paul Hindman. Illus. by Vince Evans and Nate Evans. 2008. Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky, paper, $4.99 (9781402212451). Gr. 3–5.
A cast of offbeat, food-based characters with nursery-rhyme connections fills out this clever whodunit. Dressed in a loose-fitting tie and battered overcoat, Humpty Dumpty Jr. is a “good egg who always cracks the case” in New Yolk City. Dumpty’s friend Patty Cake goes missing from her bakery on the same day that his archnemesis, the hardened flapjack criminal “Johnny” Cakes, escapes from prison. The puns and allusions come at a rapid clip in this junior take on the detective genre.
The Light in the Cellar. By Sarah Masters Buckey. 2007. Pleasant Company/AmericanGirl, paper, $6.95 (9781593691585). Gr. 3–6.
Missing sugar doesn’t seem like much of a premise for a mystery, but it works when set against the background of WWII, when rationing was a big part of the war effort. Just when supplies are needed to make cookies for soldiers, there is a mysterious shortage of flour and sugar in the town where braided and bespectacled Molly lives. The plot in this American Girl mystery includes plenty of red herrings, but what may engage readers most is the sometimes-testy relationship between Molly and her best friend, as well as the effect that the war has on everyone. The fascinating back matter fills in more historical detail.
Mystery of the Missing Luck. By Jacqueline Pearce. Illus. by Leanne Franson. 2011. Orca, paper, $6.95 (9781554693962). Gr. 2–4.
When Sara visits her Japanese grandmother’s bakery after school, she learns that Maneki Neko, the cat statue that used to greet customers with an upraised paw, is missing. In Sara’s mind, the bakery’s luck left with the cat. With her friend’s help, Sara involves the community in the hunt for Maneki Neko. Readers new to chapter books will find this paperback mystery, with many full-page drawings, a good place to start.
Sly the Sleuth and the Food Mysteries. By Donna Jo Napoli and Robert Furrow. Illus. by Heather Maione. 2007. Dial, $16.99 (9780803731196). Gr. 2–4.
Grade-school detective Sly returns for another round of cases, this time involving food. Who is leaving candy wrappers in Melody’s bushes? Why does Sly’s friend Princess behave strangely at the girls’ cooking club? What’s wrong with Mrs. Olsen’s cookies? Why is Princess stealing oranges from her friend Jack? Maione’s frequent line drawings add to these gentle capers’ sense of fun and friendship with scenes of kids working together to sort through problems.
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