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A Rochester 'whodunit'

Rochester is Buffalo's neighbor, and the home of photography pioneer George Eastman is a famous landmark.

Now Sally Valentine has written a great mystery for kids titled "Theft at George Eastman House: A New York State Adventure." It's our NeXt Book Club pick for fall. (The paperback is available from North Country Books Inc. for $9.95.)

The book is about fifth graders who go on a field trip to the Eastman House. They are just about to leave when the 18-year-old brother of one of the kids is accused of stealing a valuable candlestick. But did he really do it?

NeXt recently interviewed the author. She is a retired math teacher who spent lots of time as a kid on her grandmother's farm in the Orleans County community of Kent, north of Albion. She now lives in Wayne County, not far from Rochester, and loves puzzles "jigsaw puzzles, crossword puzzles, sudoku, three-dimensional wodden puzzles." Her next Rochester mystery will be titled, "What Stinks? An Adventure in Highland Park." Her first book was "The Ghost of the Charlotte Lighthouse."

>Are you a fan of mysteries?

In my 20s, I read all the Agatha Christie books. My favorite author is Lawrence Block.

>What inspired you to write a mystery about the Eastman House?

When I was a kid, I lived not so far from the Eastman House. It was within biking distance. It was open, and I believe it was free. We would just wander around. It's an intriguing place, with the elephant head.

>What will be your next mystery in Rochester?

I'm working on a mystery about the Seabreeze Amusement Park, one of the oldest amusement parks still in existence in the country. I want to do a book about Mount Hope Cemetery, too. It's one of the oldest municipal cemeteries in the country. Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass are buried there.

>Did crazy things happen when you took your classes on field trips?

Field trips are always fun but always difficult for the teacher because you have to keep your eye on all the kids. Something always happens on a field trip.

>Are you interested in photography like George Eastman was?

I love having a digital camera. I think George Eastman would love this. It was his idea to make photography easy for people to do, that anybody could do it. The way George Eastman got started, he was going to take a trip to one of the islands and he wanted to take pictures. By the time he had packed all the stuff, it was so cumbersome he decided not to go. He spent his time instead thinking of an easier way to take pictures. He would love the digital photography, that it makes it easy for anyone to do.

Find downloadable lesson plans for this book at

Find out more about the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film at


The NeXt Book Club urges readers 18 and younger to check out "Theft at the George Eastman House." Read the book and send a short (150 words or less) review OR write 150 words or less about a place in Buffalo or Western New York that you think would make a good setting for a mystery and why. Mail by Oct. 20 to NeXt Book Club, Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, N.Y. 14240. Participants will be eligible for a drawing for prizes of NeXt T-shirts, books or $5 Barnes and Noble gift cards.

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