In Violet Mackerel's Brilliant Plot, the first in a series of chapter books by Australian writer Anna Branford, 7-year-old Violet desperately wants a beautiful china bird from the flea market. But to raise the ten bucks to buy it, she'll need to master a new skill: outside-the-box thinking. The results are as warm as Violet is funny, and the tale ends on the sweetest of notes.
Ages 6 to 10, Atheneum, $14.99
Newbery Medal winner Laura Amy Schlitz stages a mesmerizing mystery in her new Victorian gothic novel, Splendors and Glooms. Set in a murky London, the tale follows two orphans as they discover what links their evil puppeteer guardian to a dying witch and a missing girl.
Ages 9 and up, Candlewick Press, $17.99
In The Seven Tales of Trinket, Shelley Moore Thomas recounts the adventures of a girl seeking to become a bard - just like her missing father. During her travels, she meets many a mythical Celtic being, from selkies to a fairy queen and a "ee banshee." -Alicia Potter
Ages 8 and up; Farrar, Straus, and Giroux; $17
In Anne Ursu's Breadcrumbs, 10-year-old Hazel enters an enchanted wood to rescue her best friend, Jack, after he vanishes with a woman made of ice. The tale artfully blends real-life challenges (rocky friendships) with fairy-tale features (think Hans Christian Andersen). My family is especially fond of the audio version, which brings to life both the slightly scary plot and the humor. -Suzan Jackson
Ages 8 and up, HarperCollins, $17 hardcover, $16 download
The action is hopping in Polly Horvath's Mr. and Mrs. Bunny - Detectives Extraordinaire! When foxes kidnap her parents, intrepid Madeline hires the title pair of cottontail sleuths. This witty adventure aims to surprise, right down to the details in Sophie Blackall?s droll illustrations.
Ages 8 and up, Schwartz and Wade, $17
The new paperback series Sleuth or Dare, by Kim Harrington, stars two very different best friends who share a talent for investigating. In the suspenseful first installment, Partners in Crime, the girls learn the truth about seventh-grade fashionista Fiona Fanning's missing twin - and discover a thing or two about cute Zane Munro in the process. Three titles due this summer.
Ages 8 and up, Scholastic, $6 each
The brilliant hero of Charlie Collier, Snoop for Hire: The Homemade Stuffing Caper takes his detective agency out of the family garage and into the big time. The mystery: who's swiping exotic birds? Brisk and absorbing, author John Madormo's debut tips its fedora to hard- boiled classics with its "sixth-grader meets Sam Spade" narration.
Ages 9 and up, Philomel, $16
Originally published in the May, June/July, September, October, and November 2012 issues of FamilyFun magazine