Our new feature series (Kick-butt Kidlit Spotlight On:) is kicking off this month with a focus on MYSTERY NOVELS! Specifically middle grade mystery because MG is our jam!
Let’s give a big Kick-butt welcome to our guest author for today, Natasha Deen!
When I was a kid, one of my best discoveries was finding the Encyclopedia Brown books at the library. His stories hooked me on mysteries. From there, I moved to Cam Jansen, Sherlock Bones, Nancy Drew, and the Hardy Boys. Later, I made the jump to Agatha Christie, Perry Mason, and Sherlock Holmes. There was no turning back.
As an author, I work to bring the elements of a mystery—clue-dropping, red herrings, and a puzzle to solve—into my work, (no matter what genre of book I’m working on).
It’s important that the experience I had as a young reader—the excitement, the rush of uncovering the bad guy, the way I got lost in the story—is the same one I create for my audience. I hold to a few guidelines when it comes to creating the Lark and Connor Ba mysteries for readers.
The mystery has to be age appropriate and realistic.
It has to feel like the kind of mystery that a kid might stumble on to. In the case of Lark Holds the Key, it’s finding the lost key to the library. In Lark and the Diamond Caper, where diamonds are at stake, I made sure Halmoni (their grandmother) is there as a covert agent, quietly helping the kids bridge the gap between what they know they can do and the stubborn grown-ups who judge them according to their age, instead of their abilities.
The clues must be shared with the reader.
As a reader, it drives me crazy when the sleuth has access to information not given to me. It feels unfair. Give me the mystery, drop the clues, and let me see if I can solve it before the detective can. When it comes to Lark and Connor, the characters are given the same clues at the same time as the reader. Who solves it first?
Celebration of culture.
When I was growing up, if I wanted a story featuring a minority, it was likely to be a slave story. Great, but my family was more than the product of colonialism and slavery (and stories of overcoming racism got old, fast). I wanted to see kids who reflected the diversity of the world, living a life similar to mine.
There have to be giggle-worthy moments in the book.
Life and success are about interdependence. Lark and Connor know how to work as individuals and as a team, and they know how to ask for help when they need it (and through their willingness to ask questions, they are the ones who put all the clues together to solve the mystery).
From grumpy parents, to microaggressions of other kids, to adults who don’t see them, I want the world Lark and Connor to inhabit to feel real and relatable to readers.
It’s a thrill to put together puzzles and create mysteries for readers, especially young readers. There’s a responsibility, a weight happily carried when I work and plan a book, and all the hard work—the seemingly endless drafts, the late nights and early mornings—are worth it when it comes to creating a story that readers will enjoy.
Natasha Deen’s family moved from Guyana, South America to Canada to escape the country’s political & racial violence. She loved growing up in a country of snow & flannel, but often felt out of place. Thank goodness for books that showed her being different could also mean being awesome. Natasha lives in Edmonton, Alberta with her family where she spends A LOT of time arguing with her cats and dogs about who’s the boss of the house. She is the author of the Lark Ba series and many other amazing books for kids and teens.
Add LARK TAKES A BOW on Goodreads!
Click here to win a copy of LARK TAKES A BOW!
The final giveaway will be for EVERY SINGLE book featured in the Kick-butt Kidlit Spotlight On: MYSTERY blog series so make sure you check it out on every post! (New options to enter will be added with each post.) Draw closes on Friday, October 5th at the end of our series.
Tune in on Wednesday for a guest post from Dora M. Mitchell!
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