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Calling all summer sleuths

Boys and girls tackle the mysterious in four new books for ages 9-12.

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In honor of Encyclopedia Brown, for whom the end of school means it’s time to open up his garage office and problem-solve for the children of Idaville, we hereby declare this the Summer of the Word Problem! Actually, summer’s a lovely season for a good mystery (I happen to like fall, winter, and spring, as well), and this year offers a variety of new mystery stories sure to tempt 9- to 12-year-olds.

These aren’t mysteries in the sense of the Hardy Boys or the Boxcar Children. Instead, they feature boys and girls trying to get to the bottom of questions that range from the deeply personal (Who am I and where did I come from?) to the humorous (What are those goofy people in the Revolutionary War costumes doing in the woods at night?) to the utterly baffling (Where did the giant statue go, and how do you hide something that weighs 1,000 pounds, anyway?)

For Sam MacKenzie, “summer” and “reading” go together about as well as a sardine and pickle sandwich. The “skinny but tough” kid at the center of Newbery Honor winner Patricia Reilly Giff’s new novel Eleven (Random House, 165 pp., $15.99, ages 9-12) has a learning disability and has pretty much given up on the idea of reading.

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