Friday, April 17, 2015

PPBF: The ABC Mystery

Today's Perfect Picture Book Friday pick

The ABC Mystery, by Doug Cushman
The ABC Mystery
Written and illustrated by Doug Cushman
Harper Collins, 1993
Preschool - 2

Alphabet, Mystery

A is the Art that was stolen at night.
B is the Butler who sneaks out of sight.

An oldie but goodie, The ABC Mystery is an alphabet book which tells a story. Doug Cushman manages to rhyme the simple text for each letter AND build a story . . . not just any story, but a who-dunnit. A painting is stolen, and it is up to Detective Inspector McGroom and Dame Agatha to recover the missing art. A very simple, yet fun way to entertain young readers, while injecting a bit of challenging vocabulary.

What I Love:
Doug Cushman has a talent for writing what readers want. He is able to use all the letters of the alphabet to build toward a conclusion, not just filler. This book was a staple in our home and paved the way for other classics like Encyclopedia Brown. My son especially loved this story. I highly recommend it for the reluctant readers in your life.

From a writer's standpoint, I am intrigued by the way this book makes such a difficult task look simple. The author set tight constraints: alphabetical order, rhyme scheme, historical setting, and mystery components. But the finished product is a clever picture book. I'd love to see more mysteries for this early reading level, wouldn't you?

Courtesy Brittany's Blog
1. Begin reading a short story or picture book, then have students draw how they think the story will end. Try Red, A Crayon's Story, Violet and Victor Write the Best-Ever Worm Book, Milo's Hat Trick, Clever Jack Takes The Cake, Gingerbread for Liberty!, Oh, No!, or This Is Not My Hat. Readers can guess  on almost every page of Journey. This works well with some poetry books too, stopping just before the rhyme and asking listeners to supply the right word.
2. Plan a treasure hunt. Hide clues around the house, one leading to the next until the young sleuths find the missing item. For example, "The first clue is hidden where you find something to help you eat ice cream." In our house that would be either the drawer with the spoons or the crock with the scoops and utensils. My kids love when they have to search several places before finding the right one.
3. Need to spy on a suspect? Instructions  for a periscope from How Stuff Works.
4. Identify fingerprints like a detective and learn the science behind them.
5. How observant are you? Highlights for Children has interactive hidden picture puzzles available on their website!
6. Learn to make your own stuff disappear with this card trick from Mystery Net.
7. Doug Cushman, author and illustrator extraordinaire celebrate's his birthday MAY 4th, why not send him an email greeting.
8. And don't miss another of Doug's amazing solve-it-yourself books, The Mystery of King Karfu, which includes a secret code!

Check out all the recommended titles for Perfect Picture Book Friday
for April 17, 2015, available on Susanna Leonard Hill's blog. Head to the library today, to support National Libraries Week. Uncover the Unlimited Possibilities @ Your Library!


  1. The ABC Mystery is new to me. The title reminds me of a chapter book. Your bonus ideas sound like great fun. My youngest loved making fingerprints.

    1. Thanks for your comments. So you mean they make fingerprints on everything because they're messy? Or they do it on purpose because it's fascinating? :) I used to make prints on the doorknobs, then cover them in baby powder and remove them with scotch tape. My poor mom!

  2. This sounds like a gem of a book. Was not familiar with it in the early 90s when my daughter just learning to read. Love the idea of a mystery with an Alphabet book -- makes it a lot more fun for kids. Thanks for sharing.

    1. You're welcome. I hope you can introduce it to some young readers in your life!

  3. Love a good alphabet book! Just put this on hold - thanks!

    1. It's not quite Z Is For Moose, but it suits me. I hope you like it!

  4. Love your activities. And this does sound so clever managing to create a full plot from this structure!

    1. Thanks. I miss doing these kinds of activities with all three of my kids. Why do they have to grow up?

  5. This really does sound fabulous, Joanne - and a good mentor text. Definitely requesting this one from the library!

    1. I hope it proves useful as well as fun. Thanks!


Thank-you for taking time to share your thoughts!