This week for Booklovers Anonymous, I am talking about a great little chapter book called The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin. Written in 1979, the Newberry Award winner is a wonderfully pleasant introduction to the mystery genre. I used this book for my English students in 6th grade when I was teaching, and my boys have read it in 6th and 7th grades as homeschoolers. The book is not difficult to read, but it does have a lot of twists and turns. I would recommend it for 6th grade and up, or strong 5th graders.
What I love about this book is the variety of characters, each perfectly fleshed out, and it’s multiple intricacies. This is a great book for teaching the topics of foreshadowing and suspense. Like I said, it is pretty involved, so I usually have my boys use various graphic organizers as they read each chapter. Usually one to keep track of the characters and another for keeping up with the major events in each section. Scholastic has some great printable organizers you can use.
In addition to oral and written narration, I have found some excellent online resources to go along with The Westing Game. This PDF contains chapter summaries and discussion questions. My kids have also enjoyed this Thinkquest about the book.
I will say that I have yet to have a student who did NOT enjoy this book. Most of them have fun trying to figure out “who did it” before they get to the end. When I was teaching, I overheard many a lunchtime discussion about various theories in the cafeteria! As a culminating activity when we do finish the book, I ask my kids to create their own version of “The Westing Game”. I have seen some very creative ideas for this, from a chess-style game (chess is a big part of the story), to various gameboards, trivia, and card games. It’s a fun way to wrap up the story and give kids a chance to show off how much they know. You would be surprised at the depth of this project. Having them create a game based on the book really gives you a chance to see how deeply they understood what they read.
So, if you would like a fun mystery to add to your homeschool, or to just read-aloud with your kids, check The Westing Game out! If you have any favorite mysteries of your own, let me know in the comments! Feel free to share and pin this post if you know someone who can benefit from it. Join me next week to read about another great book!