cover image Unsolved Mystery from History: The Mary Celeste

Unsolved Mystery from History: The Mary Celeste

Jane Yolen, Heidi Elisabet y. Stemple. Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-689-81079-4

This first book in a new series of unsolved mysteries may well have amateur sleuths lying awake at night. When the crewless ship Mary Celeste was found adrift in 1872, there were no signs of pirates, mutiny, cholera or weather damage, and its cargo of raw alcohol was intact; only the lifeboat and navigational instruments were missing. A girl narrator introduces the story of the ship's discovery by the crew of the Dei Gratia. Her notes on a spiral steno pad, plus nautical definitions on multicolored Post-It notes, are tipped into the book's main action as the 19th-century seamen rummage through the ship and attempt to reconstruct what happened. The book ends with a review of such possible explanations as ""The Drunken Crew Theory"" and ""The Sea Monster Theory,"" and questions help detectives evaluate whether each theory fits the clues. Mother-daughter team Yolen and Stemple (who previously collaborated for Meet the Monsters) spin a suspenseful account and add further significance and factual detail through the clever informal format. Roth's (Fishing for Methuselah) watercolor-and-pencil artwork combines realistic nautical touches with the human camaraderie of life at sea. Young Sherlocks will be eager to set sail on this team's next course. Ages 6-up. (Oct.)