It’s Elementary, my dear Mr7

Posted on April 27, 2011

Mr7 has a new love. Gone are the days of wands and wizards and Accio Teddy Bear! Harry Potter has been put back on the shelf, ready to be resurrected when Mr7 is old enough to tackle the grumpy Harry of books 4-7. Instead, he has pulled on a Hawker hat and dragged the magnifying glass out of his old Explorer’s kit.

Mr7 has discovered Mr Holmes – and it’s love at first sight.

It all began with The Baker Street Boys. I have been desperately seeking out a new series of books to capture his attention and wean him off Harry, Ron, Hermione et al. It has required that I read a whole selection of children’s books myself (which has been quite an education in itself) looking for titles that are challenging and yet age-appropriate.

After some consultation with J, the lovely children’s librarian at the Fibrotown library, I came home with The Ranger’s Apprentice (which I loved, but Mr7 did not), Emily Rodda’s Key to Rondo (jury still out), something about The Magnificent 12 (nobody was too keen), the first book in The 39 Clues (looked good but Mr7 found scary) and The Case of The Ranjipur Ruby, one of Anthony Read’s Baker Street Boys series. Once he got his head around the old-fashioned setting and some of the language, he was hooked. To the point where he immediately began searching out Sherlock Holmes stories.

Once again the Fibrotown library provided – abridged versions of Holmes classics. Is there nothing you cannot find at a public library?

It’s not his first foray into the joys of mystery novels. The Famous Five and The Secret Seven are old friends, as is Encylopedia Brown. But, as any grown-up fan knows, Holmes is the original and the best. I asked Mr7 why he liked him so much. “I like the mysteries – and he’s really, really smart, Mum.” What’s not to love?

And so we sat together tonight and began reading A Study in Scarlet, the first Holmes story ever published, brought home today in the illustrated version from the school library. Being an old Holmes hand by now, Mr7 was thrilled at the references in the introduction to the Baker Street Boys, The Red-headed League and other classic Holmes stories. He’s putting the pieces of the puzzle together.

I confess that I was worried that the central tenet of the opening chapter is a dead body lying in a room. But he was unperturbed by this. “It’s just a story, Mum,” he said. Indeed, the setting, the old-fashioned politeness, the language and his own sheer lack of worldliness make such stories seem less real to him than Star Wars or Harry Potter. Despite this, The Builder and I have decided that A Study in Scarlet is not age-appropriate and have put it on the shelf marked ‘later’, alongside Harry Potter  – it seems that I’ll be speed-reading my way through several Holmes stories in the near future looking for those that are not too dark and dire (all suggestions gratefully received).

I can understand why he likes them. A classic story is a classic story, no matter what your age or time zone. And, as any fan of mystery or crime novels will tell you, the joy is not just in solving the puzzle, but in the triumph of good over evil at the end.

Holmes always wins. It’s elementary.

What are your kids enjoying reading at the moment?


  1. MultipleMum

    It is all about zac power and captain underpants for us, and the Aussie nibbles stories. Nug is getting there but I wouldn’t say he has his nose in a book all the time. Slowly, slowly. Mr7 is impressive – I haven’t read half the books he has! X

  2. allison tait

    Hi Elsie – thank you, thank you and thank you. Not so much a makeover as a tweak. Will keep header for sure as I love it too, but I was thinking more along the lines of a tidy up. Like you do with eyebrows when they’re straggly. I’m feeling straggly… Not that I’ve done anything about it yet!

  3. Elsie Button

    hey there, just been reading through several of your blog posts – great 12 point list of things you have learned, loved the blogging is not writing one, and also wanted to say i was admiring your header and then read you want a makeover – it’s a bloody great header!

  4. deux chiens et un garcon

    Wow so admirable to have your boy being such a good reader. Nice to know the classics can still be captivating for the modern young mind.

    We are a few years behind. Readine Koala Lou, Dear Zoo, Funny Face, My First Tractor.

    Have a nice day
    xo jill

  5. Maxabella

    He is just so far ahead of the game I can’t imagine!

    Max is all geared up for the trip to London with Gran. He has memorised the address 221B Baker Street. That’s about as far as he has got. Thankfully. x

  6. Joli

    Thinking back to Pre Harry Potter when I was trying to find books for my four…. Roald Dahl (Matilda being the firm favourite with the girls), Enid Blyton was also a favourite with the girls. My oldest loved Seven Little Australians as an 11 year old (before being corrupted by vampires!!)… My son however was harder to interest… he had a great collection of Paul Jennings – anything that had “gross” in the title was a sure winner. Unfortunately in the end sport took over – that is he reads biographies & histories of his favourite players/teams but will not pick up a novel… sad really!!

  7. InkPaperPen

    Our library has a fantastic selection when it comes to books on alternative education, alternative parenting methods, organic gardening, (you get the picture). We could do with a greater children’s book selection. My three year old is loving his two new books by Oliver Jeffers.

    I love that you are so committed to finding Mr 7 new books to read.

    I was firmly in the Enid Blyton “Naughtiest Girl In The School” stage at 7. Will be interested to read more about Mr 7’s reading journey

  8. Tracey from Central Coast Seachange

    My son is currently engrossed in the Boy Vs Beast series as well as Zac Power. Both of these are written by Australian authors. For our school’s Spring Fair last year I organised for one of the Zac Power writers, Chris Morphew to come and talk to the kids. He was just lovely and I hope he inspired the kids listening him to not only read, but to take up the pen and write their own stories. He certainly inspired my little boy.

  9. Being Me

    Ahh good choice! I”m afraid that opening scene counts that book out for us for the moment…

    Current obsession here is Peter Pan which was a shock to me – I was SO unsure because my girl is very sensitive to anything remotely scary, but she has become infatuated. I cried in places, reading it to her. Have to read it again soon. Looking for more suggestions like it. Got any?!

  10. Suzi

    Oh Holmes, that is a wonderful suggestion, my own Mr 7 would love this too, I am trying to collect some old famous five’s for him and I hear the Hardy Boys have new adventures out now. I’m so pleased to hear of your wonderful library, great for kids to have that available to them. Happy Reading!

  11. therhythmmethod

    Adorable. I love that he gets so engrossed in his reading. And that Fibrotown library is doing such a stellar job in meeting his growing appetite.
    Our library may look fantastic, but they spent all the money on the building. It could do with a few more books.

  12. todd carr

    I love that you are encouraging your boys to read. I’m not familiar w/ young adult fiction other than vampire tales, so I have nothing to suggest. Spys, bad guy/good guy stuff excited me back then and now, so a good bet I’m sure.

  13. cathy@home

    that is great my boys read mostly about pirates and other vagabonds

  14. Dolores

    I think my 7yo reading about dead bodies would freak me out too. What ever happened to Enid Blyton & Roald Dahl? I thought the The Twits was hilarious as a child.

  15. thatblogyoudo

    Hmmm Sherlock Holmes, luckily we are still doing fairy stories and golden book classics here, but i admire that you have your boy reading i hear so many mum lament that their son don’t. and it sounds like he’s enjoying them so Bravo!

  16. allison tait

    @Lucy – we have a version of the science experiments book as well. It results in 101 interesting uses for food colouring. Feel free to use my recommendations – I’m glad to be providing a service with all my reading. Makes me feel better about reading Emily Rodda at my local cafe (she’s good by the way, but Mr7 is too far in Holmes’s thrall to see it just yet).

  17. Diminishing Lucy

    Al, I feel guilty. I use your recommendations in my ongoing list for Olivia & Charlie. (Charlie is currently on 101 Science Experiments to do at home, which is improvement of joke books. But not much…)


    Changing genre to fiction-fantasy to fiction-suspense. 😀

    I always fancy myself reading Holmes but i just cant seem to get rid of the fancy stuffs i learned in Tolkien’s or harry potter series…

    joross 😀

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