KBKL Middle Grade Mysteries with: C.M. Surrisi!

Kick-butt Kidlit Presents_

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, C.M. Surrisi!

Side of Sabotage

The MG Mystery: A Study in Truth Seeking

Mysteries are prodigiously popular. Some experts speculate that they attract puzzle-lovers, crime enthusiasts, or voyeurs to the darker side of life. As it goes with cozy middle grade mysteries, my particular love, I know they provide a sense of community and offer an opportunity for an ensemble cast to play roles in common social drama, while elevating the amateur detective in his or her pursuit of a ridiculous amount of every day evil.

I both read mysteries and write mysteries. My mysteries, thus far, have been for middle graders, although, I have been pleased to have garnered quite a few adult readers.  My publication schedule has taken me to school visits and library conferences, and brought interactions with young readers, teachers and librarians. After being on a number of panels and examining some of my own reasons for writing for this age group, I’ve come to both a conclusion and a strong recommendation.

The mystery convention teaches readers to discern truth.

Albert Camus said, “Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth,” and now more than ever, we are struggling to discern the truth from a flood of lies.  Since mystery novels are packed with lies, why not read and study mysteries in order to learn how to find truth?  This is my campaign in middle schools: Read More Mysteries; Find More Truth. Thus, I see mysteries as a teaching tool for finding facts.

My argument is as follows:

  • All fiction is a safe way to travel—through time, space, place, and emotion—but a mystery is uniquely designed to explain a crime through reasoning. It’s a way to explore the world of a bad actor from the safety of our homes and puzzle through his or her obfuscations.
  • Mysteries are a way to read for fun and suspense while learning something at the same time—deductive reasoning. This is so much better than saying, open wide, here’s a spoonful of deductive reasoning examples to swallow.
  • Mystery writers follow the means, motive, and opportunity rule, which is what we are trained on through popular culture and scientific reasoning.
  • Mysteries compel the reader to imagination “what if.”
  • Guided reading of mysteries can inspire a life-long skill for testing the truthfulness of information and can go so far as nurture a passion for finding the truth.

I have not been a middle grade teacher or librarian, although I know a number of them, and in my youngest days I stayed inside and played librarian or teacher while other kids were playing baseball. Still, my goal this summer is to work with a middle grade teacher to develop a lesson plan that incorporates my recommendations above, have it vetted by curriculum experts, and put it up on my website as an invitation to examine: The Middle Grade Mystery: A Study in Truth Seeking.

Thanks Casey, for this opportunity to share my thoughts on middle grade mystery!

cm surrisi

C. M. Surrisi has a BFA, a JD, and an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Young Adults. Along with her husband, and two dogs she lives in St. Paul, MN. She is represented by Wernick and Pratt Literary Agency. She is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, SCBWI, Women’s National Book Association, and the Author’s Guild.

She is the author of the QUINNIE BOYD mystery series and the picture book THE BEST MOTHER.

Add A SIDE OF SABOTAGE (the third book in the Quinnie Boyd series) on Goodreads!

Connect with C.M. on Twitter, Facebook, or through her website!

Click here to win a copy of A SIDE OF SABOTAGE!

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 next Monday for a guest post from Kat Zhang!

Kick-butt Kidlit Spotlight On: MYSTERY Previous Posts

Kick-butt Kidlit Middle Grade Mysteries with: Dora M. Mitchell

Kick-butt Kidlit Middle Grade Mysteries with: Natasha Deen

Kick-butt Kidlit Middle Grade Mysteries with: Jennifer Chambliss Bertman

Kick-butt Kidlit Middle Grade Mysteries with: Wendy McLeod MacKnight

Kick-butt Kidlit Middle Grade Mysteries with: Lauren Magaziner