why I won’t let my kids read Jigsaw Jones Mystery books

March 19, 2007 at 5:49 pm 23 comments

Someone gave my son the book, “The Case of the Kidnapped Candy,” which is just one book in the Jigsaw Jones Mystery books written for lower elementary school aged kids.

I decided to read it first. It looked like twaddle, but I wanted to make sure it was harmless twaddle before letting my son read it.

The first thing I didn’t like about it was the use of the word, “Yeesh,” throughout the book by the main character. This was just part of a slightly bad attitude that showed towards his teacher. After the teacher reads a couple love poems, the main character thinks, “Give me a break, I mean who talks like that anyway? Yeesh.”

I want to instill a love and respect for Shakespearean literature in my children. This book is counterproductive to that end.

Further, the teacher instructed the class to write their own love poems. The character thought, “Me? Write a mushy, gushy love poem? Oh brother.” I want my children to do what their teacher says and I want them to do it cheerfully with a good attitude.

The last reason I don’t want my son reading this book is because everyone lies and there are no consequences for this sin. The story line is that the teacher has a gumball machine filled with chocolates. When the gumball machine is unveiled, all the chocolate is gone. Somebody took the chocolate. The main character plays detective to find out who the thief might be. Everyone said that they didn’t take the chocolate, but as the story progresses, it becomes evident that though no one took all the chocolate, it seems that almost everyone took one or two pieces of chocolate. When this was revealed in the classroom, the teacher was “happy that we didn’t have a thief in Room 201. She said we had all learned our lesson.” Then she rewarded the class with more chocolate.

Um. What lesson did the kids learn, Ms. Teacher? The lesson the book teaches is that it’s OK to take a couple pieces of chocolate and then it’s OK to lie about taking the chocolate. It would have been wrong to take all the chocolate, but no one took all the chocolate. Apparently having a roomful of thieves and fibbers is OK. But having one thief who took it all would not have been OK.

This is only one of the books in the series. I have no idea if all the books have similar defects, but I’m not going to spend my time finding out. Instead, we’re working our way through this 1000 good books list compiled by 10 mothers, and we are reading the literature and history selections in our Tapestry of Grace curriculum.

Read the value of a book and jigsaw jones revisited written in response to a comment.

Also read jigsaw jones, the third and final installment, written by my husband in response to another comment.


Entry filed under: book reviews, education, homeschooling.

will somebody please just empty my rosie? “little boys and bandaids”

23 Comments Add your own

  • 1. nancie  |  March 21, 2007 at 2:30 pm

    Thanks for your review and the examples. I have not seen the books but if it said mysteries for kids I would have gotten it…..Thanks for saving my money and time.

    you’re very welcome! ~Guinever

  • 2. Marmee March  |  March 22, 2007 at 7:05 pm


    Thanks for your review and for posting the link to Valerie’s Bookroom. I thought your first two examples were a bit incomplete — I would expect a grade-school boy who’s never been exposed to great literature to be prejudiced. But the climax of the book was a great example! And what a terrible message to give to kids! This would be a book to include in a unit study on hidden or politically correct messages in media, for teenagers. My kids like mysteries and twaddle chapter books, too, but I’m going to start pushing for more of the recommendations on that 1000 list.

  • 3. ChristineMM  |  March 23, 2007 at 3:10 pm

    I had never heard of this series before. I appreciate your review of the book. I agree with everything you said.

    I hope you take a minute to edit what you wrote then put it as a customer review on Amazon. Maybe some other parents would then be alerted to this.

  • 4. ChristineMM  |  March 23, 2007 at 3:18 pm

    One more thing…just linked over to the online book list and I see the reading level is grades 4-6. I’ve read some of those books recently and they are not on par, I don’t think with the easier reading level of the book like the one you reviewed.

    Thanks, Christine. I just switched the link to the 1-3 grade reading level book list. I had originally just used the link to my son’s reading level, rather than the reading level of this Jigsaw Jones book.


    I also see on Amazon that there are zero customer reviews so yours would be the only one (it is needed)!

    Lastly in case anyone is wondering, Amazon shows 1/1/07 as the publishing date so this is new-new-new fiction. UGH. Not just twaddle but really garbage. Ugh.

  • 5. concerned  |  April 25, 2007 at 5:39 pm

    I am a librarian and the theme for this year’s Summer Reading Program is “Get a Clue @ Your Library.” So, I actually stumbled across this little review while looking for some info on Jigsaw Jones, along with other mystery series for kids (Nancy Drew, Encyclopedia Brown, etc.). Of course, I agree with you that these books–along with other popular series, such as Junie B. Jones or Goosebumps–are largely insubstantial fluff. HOWEVER, I would never recommend that children be denied access to them.

    Dear “concerned librarian,”
    Your “get a clue” sounds like such a fun theme for a summer library program and I’m sure the kids will enjoy reading mysteries. As a parent, I am responsible for what my children read. And I will deny access to any books I feel are inappropriate for whatever reason. They are not little adults, and should not be allowed to come and go as they please. Children need boundaries set out for them and slowly we will remove the boundaries as they can discern right and wrong for themselves. I do not want them reading about lying when there is no consequence for the lying. There are a million good books, better books to read. Mary and Laura in the Little House books knew that stealing was wrong, knew that lying was wrong and knew they would get in trouble with their Ma or Pa if they did either. That’s not what happened in the Jigsaw Jones book in question. ~Guinever

    The first step is getting children to enjoy reading, see it as something they can look forward to rather than something they are forced to do. For this reason, there’s nothing wrong with a silly little story every once in a while. Not every book a child reads needs to be heavy with meaning, nor should it always reflect only those values or lifestyles that you yourself find acceptable.

    We love silly little stories and read them often. My children’s love for reading did not begin in Kindergarten when suddenly they could read all by themselves. And giving them stupid books (I’m not saying fluffy or silly) is not the way to have kids love reading. All my children enjoy books. I think it’s because they’ve been read to daily since infants. They listen to books and stories on tapes. The rooms in our house are filled with books and we go to the library often. ~Guinever

    If you read a book and disagree with its message or find certain activities or characters offensive or inappropriate, why that’s all the more reason to share it with your children! Such books can be valuable educational tools if you use them to spark a discussion of the troubling topic. This way, your children will be well-informed individuals able to think, react, and decide for themselves.

    Yes, it is my hope that my children will be able to think, react, and decide for themselves as adults. But they’re not adults yet. My eight year old has been reading Greek myths for three years now. He could tell you all about the gods and goddesses of the Greeks. We have allowed him to read this books all the while teaching him about God, the Creator of the Bible. We do not believe in evolution, but we allow books in our house and tell our children that some people don’t believe that God created the universe and everything in it in six days. We discuss the “troubling topics” all the time. ~Guinever

    Because one day, they’re going to be able to read whatever on earth they want, regardless of how you feel about it. And rather than being gullibly swept up in something they’ve been shielded from their whole lives, they just might be able to recognize “what’s wrong with the picture”, so to speak.

    It is my prayer that my children will love and serve the Lord and will be able to recognize “what’s wrong with the picture.” Reading the Clue of the Kidnapped Candy will not help us achieve that goal. ~Guinever

  • 6. homeschoolin' momma  |  May 11, 2007 at 8:37 am

    I’m new here, but I could not agree with you more, Guinever. Good for you for sticking to your guns and responding to the librarian’s post the way you did
    I came here to read your Math-U-See blog. We are big MUS fans too! I’m enjoying looking around : )

  • 7. concerned  |  May 15, 2007 at 8:02 pm

    Well I certainly didn’t mean to offend, but it’s obvious I have, so I apologize. I understand that you have every right to raise your children however you see fit. The “concerned” part refers the fact that you not only are judging an entire series of books on the ONE you read and didn’t like, but you are encouraging other mothers to do the same.
    Again, I’m sorry–book banning is a touchy subject for librarians 🙂
    “Censorship, like charity, should begin at home–but unlike charity, it should end there.” –Clare Boothe Luce

  • 8. Maria-Elena  |  October 16, 2007 at 2:09 am

    I do not mean to take sides, I hope this is a discussion among open-minded adults, but I agree with “concerned”‘s point of view. I hope Guinever will take this comment in the spirit in which it was written, particularly with the understanding that I respect her decision to protect her children as the caring parent that she is, but perhaps she could consider reading other books in the series to support an educated position. As the nice librarian pointed out, one book does not constitute a reliable sample.

    I work in an elementary school helping children that do not speak English fluently in class. During a 4th grade reading block at school, I came across a Jigsaw Jones book (The Case of the Missing Hamster). I must say that while I am pretty conservative, and I appreciate and encourage respect for teachers, I did not find this book offensive. Furthermore, the children and I found the book thoroughly engaging, entertaining, and easy to understand. We also found the tidbits in the book, like mini-lessons on short “a” and short “e” refreshing. Children from other cultures tend to be more respectful of parents and teachers in general, so we use some of the comments made by Jigsaw as a starting point for discussion, emphasizing, as the kind librarian suggests, appropriate evaluation of questionable behavior on part of the children, e.g. giving names to fellow students, talking back to teachers, etc. In addition, one of the things I usually add to our discussion of a chapter or a story is reflection, asking the children if they agree with the storyline, if they would have a different ending, and what would the moral of the story be. Sheltering may not serve the purpose of creating discerning readers because the readers are not exposed to age-appropriate –though controversial– material for them to consider.

    For all it is worth, the author of this series seems to be a relative young person, reflecting present-day American culture. Since he is also a father, perhaps it would be good for Guinever to submit to Mr. Preller her concerns, which may perhaps prompt an alternate ending for the story in a revised second edition. I find Scholastic to be a responsible and creative publisher perhaps forwarding your sentiments to them also would help. These were my two cents … Mari

    Mari, thank you for your two cents…My time is very limited, and I don’t need to spend it reading another book in this series. I maintain that this book is not something that my children need to be reading. There are a million and one other great, wonderful books that are available. Although I do have some books published by Scholastic that I am pleased with (mostly the science titles), I quickly tire of wading through their pamphlets trying to find a gem among the rubble. ~Guinever

  • 9. Darren  |  November 26, 2007 at 6:40 pm

    I have to agree with the librarian. Denying kids access to books like this is rather backwards.

    I find it interesting that many people that support you do so blindly. Instead of getting their hands on one of the books and reading it themselves..or examining more than one issue, they merely take your word as “gospel” and agree….rather blindly. I wonder if their parents let them read books like this and question things…or merely followed the words of other like lambs to the slaughter….

    I know you will disagree with me..you have made that clear. I just wonder if any of the people who blindly agree with you will see the error of their ways. Attitudes like that just lead to a society of people who will blindly follow instead of questioning…..a truly dangerous society that can be lead around by those willing to make the effort to do so..no matter what their true intentions…

    Please refer to my post, the value of a book and jigsaw jones revisited for my response to your comment. Thanks, Guinever

  • 10. Amy Capran  |  December 14, 2007 at 3:30 pm

    I have a masters in teaching, a degree in speech pathology, and am a Nationally Certified Teacher. Honestly, I was shocked at your assessment of the Jigsaw Jones series. His attitude helps spark conversation among students. You could ask your child if you believe Jigsaw is being disrespectful. If so, how could he change his “tone” in order to represent himself in a more respectful way. My kids have also been read to since they were infants – that has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that this is a series that entertains and encourages many kids to read. Some may argue that allowing children access to mythology might make them question the existence of God and Jesus. A child might ascertain that certain individuals were at one time devout to many gods and goddesses without having physical proof that they existed. We now call them “myths”. Children may then automatically question our God and wonder if He will also be considered a “myth” in the future. I of course, would never deny students access to the genre of mythology. If sparks conversation, is entertaining, and hold valuable historical information (Think Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius). I honestly think you are being judgemental, and should be careful about what you recommend or condemn. I can’t even begin to tell you how many “home-schooled” children or those from strict Christian schools have come to my classroom far behind with limited social skills. Be careful – you come off as very judgemental and pious.

    Dear Amy, my husband has offered a response to your comment. Jigsaw Jones, the third and final installment Please go read it.

    Sincerely, Guinever

  • 11. Angie  |  December 19, 2007 at 12:28 am

    Hmmmm… As the mother of 4 previously homeschooled children who are attending public school this year (my oldest had been schooled at home for 5 years) – I will tell you that my kids have all received excellent marks in social skills at their school, in fact they have all received awards this year for their behavior and kindness toward others. And I will add that all of their teachers have praised us for the work we had done educating our children at home. I think it is very sad that you, Amy, as an educator have so little respect for those parents who desire to home school and be involved in their children’s education. It is my opinion from your post that you are the one who comes off judgmental and pious for even bringing that up as an argument. The fact that Guinever home schools has absolutely no bearing on whether or not she allows her children to read Jigsaw Jones, it has to do with her being an amazing concerned parent who wants her child to love real literature and not be dumbed down by the books that have little redeeming value.

    Thanks so much, Angie, for your support! I think the problem here is that so many “educators” and “librarians” can’t stand that people have standards different than theirs. I don’t need books like this to get my kids interested in reading. They’re already reading! ~blessings, Guinever

  • 12. Melissa  |  June 30, 2008 at 4:34 pm


  • 13. Lynnais  |  July 11, 2008 at 4:30 am

    I just bought the Super Special #2 of Jigsaw Jones, praying that kind of wrong message wont be in this title.

    I also read all the books before I let my children read them.

    I really think we parents are responsable for what kind of information they get, specially at this age. And the message in a book is way more powerfull then any TV, videogame, movies, etc.

    I haven’t read that title but from what Guinevere says, this is exactly the kind of message we want to avoid.


  • 14. Susan  |  March 25, 2009 at 10:07 am

    I just discovered the Jigsaw Jones mystery series and am enjoying reading the books with/to my daughter who is in kindergarten. She LOVES them! I have no concerns about characters in books doing things that I may not consider appropriate behavior for my daughter. I see the stories as a teaching opportunity. Just because a character in a book does something doesn’t make it right.

  • 15. Rebekah  |  April 27, 2009 at 4:32 pm

    I recently found out about Jigsaw Jones when my 1st grader came home scared of ghosts. When she wouldn’t walk through the house alone, I asked her why she was scared of ghosts. She said her teacher had been reading The Case of the Groaning Ghost to her classroom, and there were some scary parts. I went to my local library, checked out the book, and began reading. It didn’t take but a few pages for me to realize this was a book that I would not allow my children to read. (My children are not allowed to read books about ghosts anyway). So, at this point, I have emailed her teacher to confirm that the book is being read in class, and she in turn, said to my daughter, “You know ghosts aren’t real, right?” Whether they are real is not the point. The point is that my 6-year-old is now scared of ghosts because of a book that is being read in her 1st grade classroom. This is ridiculous! I’m hoping to get my children enrolled in a Christian school next year where they will read books with principles and morals. I know that will be the case because I attended Christian schools. I am appalled by some of the material my children have come home from school reading, and this is no exception!

  • 16. Dana  |  July 1, 2010 at 12:27 am

    I stumbled upon this site while researching Jig Saw Jones. Our two sons went to both private and public school — our parenting philosophy was — WE ARE THE PARENTS, WE INSTILL THE VALUES, WE ARE THE ROLE MODELS.
    Our sons have graduated college and are leading healthy, productive lives. We feel that guidance from Our Lord, with a little help from our parenting philosohy, helped them to achieve all that they have.
    Keep up the good work!

  • 17. Nicole  |  July 10, 2010 at 10:10 pm


    Thank you for your honest review. Having read some of the responses I have seen the attack that you have taken for your opinion. But, I as a mother of four, I commend you for your statements of objection. It was just this sort of information that I was looking for as I researched the jigsaw jones books. I now have your experience combined with my own and can make a more informed decision. Thanks!

    • 18. guinever  |  November 8, 2010 at 11:29 pm

      Thanks for the encouragement!

  • 19. Beverly Wentz  |  March 8, 2011 at 11:46 am

    Good observation Susan. These are children’s stories. I use them in my classroom. I personally do not care for the speech patterns in the Junie B. Jones books,however, I use them all the time. We discuss her diction and what needs to be improved or changed. It is a great tool to use in practicing and evaluating our grammar skills. After reading these stories my students do not begin speaking like Junie. They are after all fictional children’s stories. Children are very aware of what is correct and incorrect. They really are quite good at making the right decisions. It is how they become well-functioning adults. Give them a chance. Don’t make all their decisions for them.

    1st grade teacher

  • 20. Julia Egan  |  September 23, 2011 at 7:32 am

    Thank you for saving me money. I was nearly sucked into a great deal with Scholastic. Like you I am heavily involved in my children’s education (if I left that entirely up to the school teachers… that is another topic). I do believe that there is a time and place to use books as a learning tool. However, there is also a time and place to be able to read for pure pleasure. I won’t be allowing my 6 year old to read these books for pleasure.

  • 21. Amy  |  October 11, 2011 at 10:31 am

    thanks for your review. I don’t mind the language issues you mentioned or the disinterest in poetry but no punishment for stealing is not an message i’d like to send to my child. There are too many other fun good books out there for him to read so we will pass.


  • 22. mckenzie  |  April 13, 2012 at 1:02 pm

    well i have to be very honest with you, I think the word ‘yeesh’ is not a bad word even for children with there parents having certain belifes, And the poem review in your article is slightly true but most kids love this author like for instance my daughter loves jigsaw jones even met james preller if i got the name right,I just do not get how the story is some how not good for children. But thanks very much for the review.

  • 23. Nathaniel  |  May 27, 2013 at 4:07 pm

    Ok. I’m not a mom, or a super graduate or whatever, I’m just a highschooler. I came across this review trying to find the names of the “Jigsaw Jones” books I had used to read. I’ve read some of the books and I can say from past experience, they’re funny. Look it up, its apparently not a mystery series but a humor one. A boy not wanting to write a love poem? That’s funny, that happens in school, and its what us boys do. You say you want your kids to read shakespeare? Romeo and Juliet: Juiet pretends to kill herself, Romeo kills himself, and then Juliet kills herself. 🙂 Such a good kids book. Macbeth: He had it all, till his wife tells him to kill Duncan, which pretty much puts the nails in Macbeth’s coffin. Also towards the end of the book, the teacher, Miss Gleason isn’t rewarding them for sins. She said “I’m happy there’s not a thief in room 201.” Everyone sins, she just was giving them chocolate because freddy krueger wasn’t craving chocolate again. Yeesh.


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Welcome to my personal blog about my life as a wife and homeschooling mother of a few energetic children! You'll find my favorite recipes, all kinds of reviews, the occasional rant, and whatever else I feel like writing about.

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