Friday, February 8, 2019

MG Mystery Review of The Story Pirates Present: Digging Up Danger by Jacqueline West and illustrated by Hatem Aly

42852921The Story Pirates Present: Digging Up Danger by Jacqueline West, illustrated by Hatem Aly and based on the original story idea by Phoebe Wolinetz.
Format:  Ebook
Publisher:  Random House Books for Young Readers
Number of pages: 284
Published:  January 15th, 2019
Source:  Public Library

Synopsis from Goodreads:  " Eliza loves hunting ghosts — too bad she's spending the summer helping her scientist mother study weird plants instead.  But when a mysterious plant goes missing, things go from strange to downright spooky. Eliza is convinced something—or someone—is haunting the plant shop. Is she digging into dangerous ground?"

I first heard about the Story Pirates from listening to some of their podcasts with my kiddo.  I've always liked the idea that each podcast was inspired by stories that kids wrote themselves.  From there, the company has branched out into taking children's story ideas and is now publishing books.  How cool is that kids get help from published authors and their idea becomes a book?  The first book is Stuck in the Stone Age and was written by Geoff Rodkey and Digging Up Danger is the second book written by Jacqueline West and inspired by Phoebe Wolinetz.   I've been a huge fan of Jacqueline West's books for a long time, I adore her writing style, everything from the words she chooses, to her settings and characters.   I knew that I was in for a treat when my hold for this book finally came in at the library.

One of the neat things about this series is how it combined a creative writing tutorial with Phoebe's mystery story idea.  This is done by encouraging the reader to flip forward and backward through the pages of the book as your reading it.  For example, the reader might be reading the initial pages of the story and come to a spooky moment, then they're prompted to flip to the back of the book where they learn about how the author set up this scene.  There are also pieces on crafting your settings, what's needed for an exciting mystery, how stories have a beginning, middle, and end, creating a culprit, even what kind of clues a reader might need.  It's really quite interactive with the flipping of pages and there are even worksheets that ask the reader questions about what things you would find in your setting, who's the one doing the sleuthing? Even tips on how to outline who the suspects are.  There's a whole Mystery Creation Zone with titles like "idea storms" and "detective notebook pages" that ties things back to Phoebe's mystery story idea while encouraging and providing the tools for kids to develop their own mysteries.  

Now I read this as an ebook, so flipping back and forth was pretty easy for me.  Kids might find this a bit more challenging with the physical copy.  I choose to read the whole story and then went back through reading the chapter and the how-to parts at the back of the book.   I just love this idea as a classroom teaching tool in creative writing or for kids who are interested in becoming an author.  Plus Digging up Danger was a very humorous story and a fun mystery to solve that I'm sure children would enjoy reading.      


  1. It does sound like a great teaching tool. I agree that some kids might not take the time to flip to the back. Definitely intrigued by this book and the others that were inspired by stories told by kids. Thanks for sharing.

    1. I instantly thought of you after reading this book.