If mystery games are on your children’s wish list, you might want to consider the following, all of which I recommend.
Art Fraud Detective, by Anna Nilsen
In Art Fraud Detective Nilsen catalogs six centuries of art masterpieces. Published by Kingfisher in association with London’s National Gallery, the book beautifully reproduces works by Leonardo, Rembrandt, Monet, Picasso, and others and provides a brief biographical highlight of the artist as well as a description of each painting’s historical context. In a companion catalog Nilsen provides clever frauds of the works. The detective’s job is to use the enclosed magnifying glass to study the originals and the frauds, identify inconsistencies in the details, and look for clues as to which suspect has stolen the original. A glossary of art terms completes the book.
Art Fraud Detective ingeniously engages visual discrimination and high-level critical thinking with sophisticated art content. Recommended for ages 8 and above, it challenges gifted children but can help children at any level develop visual discrimination skills.
Bella’s Notebook Mystery Game and Bella’s Mystery Deck, by Mindware Mysteries
Mindware Mysteries has created a series of games narrated by savvy bilingual teen detective Bella, who solves mysteries in her Tucson community with the help of her dog, Noche. “Bella’s Notebook Mystery Game” (ages 9 to adult) and “Bella’s Mystery Deck” (ages 10 to adult) engage children’s deductive reasoning skills with 52 mini-mysteries per deck. In each, Bella narrates a short mystery, usually a crime or prank (always nonviolent), and drops subtle hints at the solution. Players ask questions and discuss the hints as they solve the mystery. Embedded in the narratives are English and Spanish vocabulary and bits of history, geography, and culture concerning the American Southwest. Though some of the mysteries have obscure solutions and may require an adult’s help, the games are clever and interesting and make excellent travel entertainment.
Bella’s Mystery Party Games for Kids, by Mindware Mysteries
Bella also narrates children’s mystery party games. “The Case of the Punctured Piñata” (ages 8–12) and “The Case of the Stolen Buckle” (ages 8–14) are complete party kits that engage children in role-playing. Each of eight children assumes the role of a suspect and drops hints that the others must piece together to identify the culprit among them. The kits include a host’s guide; a cassette narrated by Bella to set the scene and drop the hints; name tags, party invitations, costume suggestions, and biographical details for the characters; recipes for party food; and suggestions for additional party games and decorations. The games integrate deductive critical thinking skills with fun and creativity. All you provide is the food and, of course, the supervision.
How to Host a Teen Mystery Party, by Decipher Inc.
The How to Host a Teen Mystery Party series provides the same format as Bella’s Mystery Party Games for Kids, but with more depth and detail for teenagers. Episode 1, “Hot Times at Hollywood High,” brings together eight high school students, all suspects in a chemistry lab fire, who act out roles and identify the guilty party. The players each reveal details about their character and his or her whereabouts on the day of the fire and divert suspicion from themselves without lying. The plot thickens in four increasingly complex rounds, ending with each player’s accusation of guilt. Recommended for teenagers who enjoy drama and are creative enough to sustain a role for two to three hours.
Sarah Boone has an M.A. in teaching and certification in gifted education. She teaches at Meredith College.