"Inspector Penrose" Clues Kids in; Bookstore-Funded Program Alerts Youngsters to Excitement of Mysteries

Article excerpt

"Inspector Penrose' clues kids in

WHAT MAKES A MYSTERY? What do all mystery stories have in common? How do you know you are reading a mystery? What are some of the best mysteries written for children?

In Colorado Springs, Colo., Inspector Penrose, a "famous' armchair detective, answered these questions for school children in a library-sponsored program titled "Make Mine A Mystery?' The inspector, dressed in a brown tweed cape and a hat reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes, visited 50 schools and seven libraries to promote the fun and excitement of reading mysteries.

As a freelance writer and the author of two books for children, I became interested in mysteries after a discussion with my 10-year-old daughter. She loves to read mysteries, especially the Trixie Belden series. It occurred to me that other children might be drawn into reading if they were introduced to the mystery story. I decided to write a one-person classroom production titled "Make Mine A Mystery!' that would describe the components of a mystery story and highlight some of the best children's mystery books.

I took the idea to the Children's Department of Penrose Public Library, the main library for the Pikes Peak Library District, and soon we were off--finding the funding, writing the script, hiring an actor, and mailing brochures to local schools.

Vicki Fox, head of children's library services for the Pikes Peak Library District, suggested that "Make Mine A Mystery!' could be offered as a free program to all branches of the library and the elementary schools in the district. The program would highlight National Children's Book Week and be available throughout the month of November.

Costs shared by bookstores

I donated my time to research and write the script. Program costs included $175 for promotional materials (logo, brochure, and postage); $1,125 for the actor's salary for 3 weeks; and $350 for the costume, for a total cost of $1,650. (The actor's salary would vary from area to area, of course, depending upon circumstances. It might be possible to obtain a volunteer actor, for example.) For and I approached four local bookstores to sponsor the program. The cost of the program was divided among the participating bookstores at $413 per bookstore.

Fox estimated the program would reach over 10,000 school children in one month at a cost of 4 cents per child. Each child who attended the program also received a coupon worth 10 percent off a group of books from a specific list of children's mysteries chosen by the library. The owners were given the list in advance so the books could be ordered in both hardback and paperback.

Children's mysteries selected

The list of books included:

Kindergarten to second grade: Miss Nelson is Missing by Harry Allard, The Bear Detective by Stan and Janice Berenstain, Big Max by Kin Platt, and Stairway to Doom by Robert Quackenbush.

Third and fourth grade: The Mystery of Pony Hollow by Lynn Hall, The Case of the Four Flying Fingers by E.W. Hildick, The Mona Lisa Mystery by Pat Hutchins, and Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective by Donald Sobol.

Fifth and sixth grade: The House with a Clock in Its Walls by John Bellairs, The Baker Street Irregulars in The Case of the Missing Masterpiece by Terrance Dicks, From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg, The View From the Cherry Tree by Willo D. Roberts, The Nancy Drew Series by Carolyn Keene, and The Hardy Boys Series by Franklin Dixon. …