Sherlockian.Net: Books for children


Annotated bibliography by Beth Gallego (beth@morethantrue.com)

As both a children's librarian and a parent, one of the first things I did once I fell down the Sherlockian rabbit hole was look for stories about the Great Detective and the Good Doctor for children. The Basil of Baker Street series (which inspired the movie The Great Mouse Detective) is the classic, but — to my great dismay — currently out of print. It is currently slated for republication in May of 2016, though, so get ready to grab a copy.

Happily, there are many other books currently available for budding Holmesians, from those still a bit young for the Canon to those looking to explore pastiche.

Books for pre-readers and beginning readers

For the very youngest Sherlockian, the BabyLit Sounds Primer series of board books includes Sherlock Holmes in the Hound of the Baskervilles, an extremely short adaptation by Jennifer Adams, illustrated by Alison Oliver. It doesn't really tell the story at all, but it's a lot of fun.

In Hugh Ashton's Sherlock Ferret series, crimes are solved by Sherlock Ferret, Watson Mouse, and Lestrade Rhinocerous (though not a very big one). In the first book of the series, Sherlock Ferret and the Missing Necklace they must track down the thief of a 24-carat (or is that 24-carrot?) necklace. A good read-aloud, and the grown-ups familiar with the Canon will get a giggle from some of the puns.

Another read-aloud title is Susan Stevens Crummel's Sherlock Bones and the Missing Cheese, a picture book based on the Farmer in the Dell (sort of), in which that sleuthing hound Sherlock Bones must solve the mystery of who took the cheese.

Barry Baskerville Solves a Case, Barry Baskerville Returns, and Barry Baskerville Traps a Thief (by Richard Kellogg and illustrated by Gary Kato) star a young boy who wants to emulate his hero — Sherlock Holmes, of course — in everything from violin-playing to mystery-solving.

The Hamster Holmes series (by Albin Sadar and illustrated by Valerio Fabbretti) begins with A Mystery Comes Knocking. In this adaptation, the furry Holmes's loyal friend is a firefly named Dr. Watt, who communicates using Morse code, adding a fun extra code-breaking element to each story.

Books for the middle grades

Readers moving into chapter books will enjoy David Keane's "Joe Sherlock, Kid Detective" series. The fourth-grade sleuth solves mysteries for just $10 a day, beginning with The Haunted Toolshed. Cartoony illustrations and goofy humor add to the appeal.

"Sherlock, Lupin and Me" is a pastiche series aimed squarely at middle-grade readers. In The Dark Lady, 12-year-old Irene Adler teams up with Arsène Lupin and Sherlock Holmes to solve a murder mystery. Their adventures continue in The Soprano's Last Song, The Mystery of the Scarlet Rose, and The Cathedral of Fear.

Readers looking for a more modern take need look no further than Tracy Barrett's "The Sherlock Files" series. The 100-Year-Old Secret introduces Xena and Xander Holmes, the American great-great-great-grandchildren of Sherlock himself. Newly arrived in London with their parents, the siblings find themselves in possession of their ancestor's casebook of unsolved mysteries and are determined to uncover the answers.

Unsqueakably clever hamster Humphrey takes on several mysteries in the eighth book in Betty Birney's charming class pet series "According to Humphrey", Mysteries According to Humphrey. The biggest one is where Mrs. Brisbane has gone — what sort of teacher up and disappears without even finishing reading the class "The Adventure of the Red-Headed League"?

Nancy Springer's six-volume Enola Holmes series opens with The Case of the Missing Marquess. When her mother disappears and her much older brothers (Sherlock and Mycroft, who are portrayed as men of the time, with decidedly Victorian attitudes on gender politics) plan to send her to boarding school, 14-year-old Enola heads for London instead, and she finds herself tangled in an entirely different mystery along the way. This volume and the fifth, The Case of the Cryptic Crinoline, were nominated for the Best Juvenile category of the MWA Edgars.

Canon stories have been adapted into comics and graphic novels many times, but two recent series for readers ages 8-12 stand out: the 14-volume On the Case with Holmes and Watson begins with Sherlock Holmes and a Scandal in Bohemia, while the Graphic Novel Adventures of Sherlock Holmes series includes 12 stories (start with perennial favorite The Red-Headed League). An adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles is one of the stand-alone Classics from Campfire graphic novels.

Books for teens

Two series explore the earliest cases of a young Sherlock Holmes. Shane Peacock's "The Boy Sherlock Holmes", begins with Eye of the Crow. Sherlock is the 13-year-old son of an impoverished Jewish father and a disinherited aristocratic mother. Reports of a murder in Whitechapel capture his attention, but his investigative efforts lead Scotland Yard to suspect him. The final volume, Becoming Holmes, was published in 2012.

Andrew Lane's Death Cloud, the first volume of the ongoing "Sherlock Holmes: The Legend Begins" series presents a different version of Holmes. He is 14 and staying with relatives in Hampshire during a break from boarding school when he takes on his first case, a mysterious pair of local deaths. Later volumes find him in America, Russia, and China, as well as London. Book 6, Knife Edge, was released in December of 2015.

A wacky take for manga fans is Sherlock Bones, by Yuma Ando, in which high school student Takeru Wajima adopts a dog from the shelter with absolutely no idea what he's in for. The dog is the reincarnation of Sherlock Holmes, and he's convinced that Takeru is the reincarnation of his dear Watson.

In The Clockwork Scarab, the first volume of Colleen Gleason's Stoker and Holmes series, Mina Holmes — niece of Sherlock — teams up with Bram Stoker's sister Evaline in a steampunk-inspired alternative version of Victorian London. The second book in the series, The Spiritglass Charade, was published in October 2014, and the third, The Chess Queen Enigma followed in October 2015.

Historical mystery blends with romance (as well as a fair number of sly Canonical references) in Leah Scheier's Secret Letters. Teen-age Dora arrives at the famous Baker Street address hoping to consult the detective, only to learn from the newspaper that Holmes has just died at the Reichenbach Falls. With assistance from a young man who assisted Holmes in the past, she goes undercover to solve the mystery herself.

Set a few decades later, in the 1930s, Angela Misri's series of Portia Adams adventures begins with Jewel of the Thames. At 19, Portia Adams is highly observant, socially awkward, and newly orphaned. Her new guardian, a complete stranger to Portia named in her late mother's will, is a woman named Mrs. Jones, who immediately relocates Portia from her home in Toronto to London (England, not Ontario), because Portia has just inherited 221 Baker Street. She quickly becomes involved in solving several mysteries, including that of her own family's true background. The series continues with Thrice Burned and the forthcoming No Matter How Improbable (March 2016).

A title that was published as adult fiction but has strong appeal for teens is Laurie R King's The Beekeeper's Apprentice. This is the first book in the Mary Russell series, and it was recently republished in a 20th anniversary edition. Mary Russell is just 15 years old when she quite literally trips over the retired Great Detective out on the Sussex Downs. This less-than-auspicious meeting leads to a partnership — and, beginning with the following book, A Monstrous Regiment of Women, a marriage — that has lasted through thirteen volumes (and counting).

Books for all ages

The interactive books from Dover Press, including Sherlock Holmes: The Hound of the Baskervilles coloring book (adapted by John Green), the Sherlock Holmes Sticker Activity Book (by Arkady Roytman), the Sherlock Holmes Activity Book (by David Schimmell), and Sherlock Holmes Paper Dolls (by Tom Tierney), are sure to provide hours of Sherlockian entertainment to the young and the young-at-heart. Cumberbatch and Freeman fans can add their personal touches to scenes from the BBC show in Sherlock: The Mind Palace: A Coloring Book Adventure

Coming soon

This list is, obviously, an eternal work-in-progress, because new books are (happily) always forthcoming. Some books I'm looking forward to are:


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Copyright © Beth Gallego and Chris Redmond 2015