Module 8–Mystery

The Body of Christopher Creed  by Carol Plum-Ucci

 

Summary

 

Torey Adams is  at a new boarding school.  We find out that he is there because of some things that happened back home.  The story progresses with the boy thinking about how he got where he is now.  A classmate, Christopher Creed, went missing.  He had been bullied for years and referred to as the school freak.  He was pushed around and beat up most of his life.  A letter was found signed by him, which made it seem like a suicide.  Others think he just ran away because no body was found.

 

Torey is really torn up about the missing boy because he knows he wasn’t always the nicest to him.  His desire to find out what happened to this boy leads to many town secrets being revealed and leads to his own self-destruction.

 

Plum-Ucci, C.  (2000).  The Body of Christopher Creed.  Florida:  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing.

 

My impressions

 

This was a different type of mystery as we didn’t know if the boy was dead or just ran away.  We didn’t know if a crime had even been committed…but that was the mystery, what happened?  Torey is looking for clues and he is trying to solve this mystery throughout the entire book.  I don’t want to ruin the end of the book for any of you who might read it, so I will conclude that I thought it was a good mystery.  I definitely recommend this to everyone; I don’t think you will be disappointed.  I think the pace of the book was fast and was a page-turner.  I look forward to reading the sequel.

 

Reviews

 

Plum-Ucci makes a memorable fiction debut with this soapy tale of a teenager’s disappearance from a small New Jersey town asimmer with dirty secrets. Rumors fly when despised, perennial outcast Chris Creed vanishes, leaving an ambiguous e-mail note behind. Did he run? Commit suicide? Was he kidnapped? Murdered? Suspicion quickly centers on 17-year-old Bo Richardson, a hard case with a long juvenile record—but as Bo’s naïve schoolmate Alex discovers, finger-pointing is not evidence. Revelations unfold as Alex begins to look past his comfortable life and circle of superficial friends: the adults in town are still flinching over a similar disappearance a generation ago; the seemingly distraught Mrs. Creed is a control freak of the most damaging kind; a schoolmate psychologically abused by her mother’s current boyfriend reveals that the local police chief is one of her mother’s former ones. Most startling of all, to Alex at least, beneath Bo’s brutal exterior lies a fundamental decency. Alex’s insights into the fears and secrets of people around him, and the way ugly truths can be hidden by easy lies, are hard-won enough to be convincing, and the plot peaks with a gloriously icky scene in which Alex breaks his leg while breaking into an old, naturally sealed Lenape tomb, and watches a more recent corpse spontaneously decompose upon exposure to fresh oxygen. Unlike such similarly harrowing stories as Michael Cadnum’s Zero at the Bone (1996) and Jean Thesman’s Calling the Swan (see below), this leaves readers with hints that the missing person is still alive somewhere—but readers will understand why, if so, he’s not coming out of hiding any time soon. (Fiction. YA)

 

(2000, May 15).  Review of The Body of Christopher Creed.  Retrieved from

https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/carol-plum-ucci/the-body-of-christoher-creed/

 

Suggestions

 

This book would make a great book talk up at the high schools.  I would like to created a book trailer for it, as it is quite mysterious and I think it would be the best way to get the kids attention.  I could see the words moving across the screen….  IN A TOWN WITH SECRETS ANOTHER BOY GOES MISSING.  IS HE A RUNAWAY?  OR IS HE DEAD?  IS THE KILLER SITTING NEXT TO YOU?……

 

Cam Jansen: The Mystery of the Dinosaur Bones

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Summary

 

While on a field trip to the museum with her class Cam (short for Camera) Jansen notices that some bones are missing from the skeleton of one of the dinosaurs.  Using her photographic memory and with help from her friend Eric, Cam starts her line of questioning to figure out who snuck the bones past one of the guards.  As they follow the Milkman home the two friends discover the dirty truth about the bones.  Caught inside the garage, Cam and Eric use the whistles they just bought at the museum to attract the attention of some dogs to cause a diversion.  Narrowly escaping Cam is able to impress the museum director with her mystery solving skills.

 

Adler, D.  (1981).  Cam Jansen:  They Mystery of the Dinosaur Bones.  New York:  Puffin Books.

 

My impression

 

I love Cam Jansen books.  There has not been one that I didn’t like.  As a young child I read many of these and it was fun to go back and reread them as an adult.  I definitely recommend these books to young readers just getting into chapter books.  The text is big and the words are not difficult.  In second grade I got to meet the author, which just spurred me on to read them more and more.  These books got me hooked to mysteries, which I still read to this day.  I wanted and still want to be Cam Jansen.  I can’t hear a “click” without thinking about her.

 

Reviews

 

#1

Cam Jansen’s real first name is Jennifer, but her friends call her Cam because of her photographic memory. When she takes a mental picture, she says “click”. In this story, part of a large series of mysteries, Cam and her friend Eric are touring a natural history museum. Cam remembers that one of the dinosaurs had more bones in its tail the last time she visited. The tour guide denies this, and seems hostile to her inquiries.

Just as they leave the museum, Cam and Eric notice a mysterious milk truck picking up a carton outside the museum. Cam remembers that the brand of milk in the museum cafeteria is different. She and Eric set out on a dangerous mission to solve the mystery on their bicycles. It doesn’t really matter that the situation is unlikely. This book would be an entertaining read for new chapter book readers. With a similar feel to easy readers, but slightly denser text and smaller font, the book contains black and white pictures every 2-5 pages or so. Nothing violent happens, so the story would be suitable for readers 6 and up.

 

Because this book was originally published in 1981 and it is part of a large series, it was difficult to find online reviews of this book in electronic databases. Amazon.com quotes reviews from Booklist and School Library Journal, but it is unclear whether they refer to this specific book. The quote from School Library Journal praised the clever plot and heroine, and said the book was a “zestful mystery”. The Booklist quote was less helpful, and merely praised the heroine. Amazon’s publisher review helpfully mentions that this book is suitable for readers who are transitioning to chapter books.

 

#2

The original Cam Jansen series follows the exploits of 10-year-old 5th grader Jennifer “the Camera” (aka “Cam”) Jansen and her best friend, classmate, and neighbor Eric Shelton. Cam got her nickname because of her photographic memory. All she has to do is say “Click,” and Cam can remember everything she’s seen, which comes in pretty handy when trying to solve mysteries.

 

David Adler has written several beginning chapter book series, but Cam Jansen is one of the earliest and most successful. He’s been writing the series since 1980 and now writes roughly one volume per year. He has also started a Young Cam Jansen series of even simpler chapter books. Reading level wise, I’d say children they’d interest children from kindergarden through fifth grade who are just starting to read chapter books. I didn’t read any of the the young Cam Jansen books, but it looks like they’re more limited in scope and probably would be considered “baby books” to anyone beyond 2nd grade.

 

Because the books are so short, I read essentially the first half of the series and the 25th anniversary special “The Valentine Day Baby Mystery” where Cam’s mom has twins, ending Cam’s only child status, and Eric’s mom has her car stolen, only to be returned when Cam’s quick thinking discovers the thief.

 

Overall I was surprised at how engaging these stories were. I would totally recommend them to children just starting to read chapter books. The print is big and there are still several black and white drawings scattered throughout the text, making them an easy transition from picture books. Plus, they’re well-written enough that I think they can nudge children to move on to better quality titles as they move on to longer chapter books.

 

Of course they’re not perfect, though. It seems that adults Cam and Eric interact with choose to not accept Cam’s photographic memory only when it’s necessary to create tension in the story. Otherwise most adults take for granted that this 10-year-old can solve diamond thefts and bank robberies. Still, it has to be empowering for kids to read about someone close to their age solving mysteries like that.

 

I was also kind of bothered by the way Cam always ends up being right. Sometimes she comes off as a little too cocky and unwilling to listen to others. In nearly every story Eric plays the wet blanket suggesting that they tell an adult what they’ve discovered rather than trying to catch the bad guy on their own. However Cam always forges ahead and ends up getting her suspect. Again, I’m sure kids love the feeling of accomplishment, but sometimes it feels like Cam’s walking the fine line between extreme confidence and recklessness, as in the Chocolate Fudge Mystery where she trespasses into someone’s back yard just because she thinks it’s weird that no one’s home. Her dad and Eric both tell her she shouldn’t be doing this, but Cam doesn’t care because she’s certain there’s a mystery to be solved. She turns out be right (there’s a bank robber hiding in the house) and her disregard for strangers’ privacy is forgotten.

 

And honestly, that’s the problem I had with these books when I was little. While it was cool to read about a kid doing cool stuff like solving robberies, I could always tell that the stories weren’t quite true to real life. I guess that’s why I always preferred stories of kids doing amazing things that were based off real stories like Island of the Blue Dolphins or at least seemed more realistic.

 

My husband, however, loved these books as a kid and said he read every one he could get his hands on when he was younger, so I guess that’s at least some proof of their appeal to both sexes. Both libraries I checked these books out from had multiple copies of the titles in this series and even then I had trouble finding all the titles actually on the shelf, so they continue to be popular titles. I think they would be great additions to a school or public library collection.

 

 

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/608374.The_Mystery_of_the_Dinosaur_Bones

 

Suggestions

 

This book, or any in the series, would be interesting to do along with a photography class.  Taking and using photos to test our memories about certain scenarios would be an intriguing way to tie this together.  There is a board game my son and I play where we have 30 seconds to look at a picture and then we have to answer questions about it.  Every question we get right moves us one space closer to the jackpot.  This game could be recreated using plots from the Cam Jansen mysteries.

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