Literature Connections to
Fingerprinting

Teacher's Guides > Fingerprinting

Several books explore how footprints can be used as clues to the identities of the animals who left them. The rest of the books are mysteries, some of which involve the technique of fingerprinting. Like those books under Crime Lab Chemistry, these mysteries all involve the discovery of evidence and its subsequent analysis to make inferences.

Some teachers use newspaper articles with their students, which describe a crime (usually unsolved), the evidence and some possible inferences. There are books containing nonfiction accounts of mysteries or scientific discoveries, in which detective-like behavior was required. Such a mystery would be particularly apt if it involved fingerprinting or even what’s currently called DNA fingerprinting. See also the books on classification in the Math Strand section on Logic.

Cam Jensen and the Mystery of the Gold Coins
Chip Rogers: Computer Whiz
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
The Great Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
Let’s Go Dinosaur Tracking

The Mystery of the Stranger in the Barn
The One Hundredth Thing About Caroline
Susannah and the Blue House Mystery
Susannah and the Poison Green Halloween
Who Really Killed Cock Robin?
Whose Footprints?

Cam Jensen and the Mystery of the Gold Coins
by David A. Adler; illustrated by Susanna Natti
Viking Press, New York. 1982
Dell Publishing, New York. 1984
Grades: 3–5
Cam Jensen uses her photographic memory to solve a theft of two gold coins. Cam and her friend Eric carry around their 5th grade science projects throughout the book and the final scenes take place at the school science fair. (Other titles in the series include Cam Jensen and the Mystery at the Monkey House and Cam Jensen and the Mystery of the Dinosaur Bones in which she notices that three bones are missing from a museum’s mounted dinosaur.)
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Chip Rogers: Computer Whiz
by Seymour Simon; illustrated by Steve Miller
William Morrow, New York. 1984
Out of print
Grades: 4–8
Two youngsters, a boy and a girl, solve a gem theft from a science museum by using a computer to classify clues. A computer is also used to weigh variables in choosing a basketball team. Although some details about programming the computer may be a little dated, this is still a good book revolving directly around sorting out evidence, deciding whether or not a crime has been committed, solving it, and demonstrating the role computers can play in human endeavors. By the author of the Einstein Anderson series.
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From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
by E.L. Konigsburg
Atheneum, New York. 1967
Dell Publishing, New York. 1977
Grades: 5–8
Twelve-year-old Claudia and her younger brother run away from home to live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and stumble upon a mystery involving a statue attributed to Michelangelo. This book is a classic, and has been recommended to GEMS by many teachers.
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The Great Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
by Arthur Conan Doyle
Viking Penguin, New York. 1990
Grades: 6–Adult
These classic short stories are masterly examples of deduction. Many of the puzzling cases are solved by Holmes in his chemistry lab as he analyzes fingerprints, inks, tobaccos, mud, etc. to solve the crime and catch the criminal. Nearly every Sherlock Homes story is suitable for this GEMS guide. These stories are available from many different publishers and in many editions.
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Let’s Go Dinosaur Tracking
by Miriam Schlein; illustrated by Kate Duke
HarperCollins, New York. 1991
Grades: 2–5
The many different types of tracks dinosaurs left behind and what these giant steps reveal is explored. Was the creature running … chasing a lizard … browsing on its hind legs for leaves … traveling in pairs or in a pack … walking underwater? At the end of the book, you can measure your stride and compare the difference when walking slowly, walking fast, and running. The process involved in attempting to draw conclusions about an animal’s behavior or movement patterns from its tracks is similar to the way inferences are drawn from evidence in the GEMS mystery-solving activities. You could discuss with your students how they would weigh the evidence and consider the suspects if, for example, muddy shoeprints of a suspect had also been found at the scene of the crime.
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The Mystery of the Stranger in the Barn
by True Kelley
Dodd, Mead, & Co., New York. 1986
Grades: K–4
A discarded hat and disappearing objects seem to prove that a mysterious stranger is hiding out in the barn, but no one ever sees anyone. A good opportunity to contrast evidence and inference.
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The One Hundredth Thing About Caroline
by Lois Lowry
Houghton Mifflin, Boston. 1983
Dell Publishing, New York. 1991
Grades: 5–9
Fast-moving and often humorous book about 11-year-old Caroline, an aspiring paleontologist, and her friend Stacy’s attempts to conduct investigations. Caroline becomes convinced that a neighbor has ominous plans to “eliminate” the children and Stacy speculates about the private life of a famous neighbor. Due to hasty misinterpretations of real evidence, both prove to be wildly wrong in their inferences. Gathering evidence, weighing it, and deciding what makes sense are good accompanying themes. A somewhat inaccurate portrayal of “color blindness” is a minor flaw.
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Susannah and the Blue House Mystery
by Patricia Elmore
E.P. Dutton, New York. 1980
Scholastic, New York. 1990
Grades: 5–7
Susannah (an amateur herpetologist) and Lucy have formed a detective agency. They check into the death of a kindly old antique dealer who lived in the mysterious “Blue House.” They attempt to piece together clues in hopes of finding the treasure they think he has left to one of them. The detectives evaluate evidence, work together to solve problems, and prevent a camouflaged theft from taking place.
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Susannah and the Poison Green Halloween
by Patricia Elmore
E.P. Dutton, New York. 1982
Scholastic., New York. 1990
Grades: 5–7
Susannah and her friends try to figure out who put the poison in their Halloween candy when they trick-or-treated at the Eucalyptus Arms apartments. Tricky clues, changing main suspects, and some medical chemistry make this an excellent choice, with lots of inference and mystery.
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Who Really Killed Cock Robin?
by Jean Craighead George
HarperCollins, New York. 1991
Grades: 3–7
A compelling ecological mystery examines the importance of keeping nature in balance, and provides an inspiring account of a young environmental hero who becomes a scientific detective.
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Whose Footprints?
by Masayuki Yabuuchi
Philomel Books, New York. 1983
Grades: K–4
A good guessing game for younger students that depicts the footprints of a duck, cat, bear, horse, hippopotamus, and goat.
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