Author Harper Paris and Little Simon have recently released a new beginning chapter book series, Greetings from Somewhere, which is perfect for those who are graduating from beginning readers like Henry & Mudge or Dr. Seuss and are ready for something a little longer, but not particularly more difficult. The first book weighs in at 118 pages, with very large font and appealing black and white illustrations on every page. These appear to be at an easier reading level than a series like Magic Treehouse, and are well suited to children from 7-9, or even younger, if the child is already reading.
The series starts with The Mystery of the Gold Coin. It revolves around eight-year old twins Ethan and Ella, who when the series opens are less than thrilled when they discover they are about to leave on what their parents are billing as the adventure of a lifetime--traveling around the world with their mother, a travel writer, and their father, who will be home-schooling the twins during their travels. The twins are more concerned about missing their friends and soccer games. But just before they're supposed to leave, a special gold coin that was a present from their grandpa disappears--leaving the twins to solve the mystery before they have to leave for the airport.
In the second volume, The Mystery of the Mosaic, the twins and their parents have arrived in Venice, where they can't help but be enchanted by the magical city. But soon they are faced with another mystery, a missing gondola. In true kid detective fashion, Ethan and Ella solve another case--no great surprise there!
This is a gentle yet appealing mystery series with no violence, a chance to learn about some exotic locations (future volumes take place in Paris, Beijing, and Africa) and a little foreign vocabulary (a glossary of foreign words is included). Although I was a bit skeptical of the way the 8-year old twins took off on their own (no parents in the way) in Venice to solve a mystery, I don't think that will bother the young readers who are the target audience for these books.
An excerpt from the series can be found at http://pages.simonandschuster.com/greetings-from-somewhere, as can related games and activities and information on upcoming releases in the series.
Disclosure: Review copies provided by publisher.