One of the most popular genres for both adults and children is mystery. Who doesn’t love a good whodunit tale? Kids are typically exposed to this genre through classic books like “Nancy Drew,” “The Hardy Boys,” and “Encyclopedia Brown.” Beyond these, the sky is the limit. Mystery is such a broad category with countless themes. Filled with suspense, codes, puzzles, and intrigue, a good mystery can captivate and engage both emerging and older readers.
Here are 10 of the best mystery books for kids of all ages:
by Denise Fleming
A young cow has lost her moo. As she searches for it, she discovers how to cluck. “Well, that’s not right,” think the other farm animals, so they join the hunt for the lost sound in this colorful vocal barnyard search. The simple repetition will have children chanting right along with cow, “It is not you who has my moo!”
Booklist says, “Evidently inspired by Van Gogh’s Starry Night, the endpapers add a distinctive beginning and ending to this pleasing picture book, which offers opportunities for children to chime in with farm animal sounds and to predict the story’s outcome.”
The farmyard is full of noise. Clucks, moos, whinnies, and barks. It’s so loud that when a couple of thieves plot to steal the prize cow, no one hears them – except for the ladybug, the quietist creature of all. Can she outwit them and save the day?
Young readers will have a blast trying to find the glittery ladybug on each page while watching a tiny character take on a bold, brave task. “Hidden within the farcical story is a message about language and the power of saying the right thing; the perfect word (or woof) at just the right moment can indeed save the day,” says School Library Journal.
by Mark Teague
When devilish dog Ike LaRue leaves obedience school and becomes a super sleuth, he discovers that solving a mystery can take an unexpected turn. Soon, he finds himself in jail, wrongly excused of terrorizing the Hibbins’ cats and stealing their treats. Can he crack the case and clear his name?
by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman
In this debut novel from Jennifer Chambliss Bertman, Emily and James, two diehard book and puzzle fans, set out on a quest around San Francisco to find out what happened to Garrison Griswold, the inventor of the Book Scavenger game.
Kids can play Book Scavenger in real life, and seek and hide their favorite books around town. “Sprinkled with ciphers, San Francisco landmarks, and literary allusions, ‘Book Scavenger’ is a fun, light, implausible adventure,” says School Library Journal.
by Chris Grabenstein
Class clown, Kyle Keeley, loves games. Board games. Video games. Word games. If there is fun and a challenge involved, he’s game. It’s no wonder his hero is Luis Lemoncello, the most fantastical game-maker in the world, who also built the new local library. Kyle is over the moon when he wins one of 12 coveted spots to attend a sleepover at the new facility, hosted by Lemoncello himself. The night is filled with games and puzzles. When the morning comes and the front door stays locked, they must solve the biggest riddle of all. How will they escape?
by E.L. Konigsburg
When Claudia Kincaid runs away, she heads to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. She is joined by her younger brother, Jamie, who has the money to get them to their eccentric destination. As soon as they arrive, they immediately find themselves caught up in the mystery of the angel statue. The museum bought it for only $250 at auction, yet word has it that it’s possibly an early work of the Renaissance master Michelangelo. Could the bargain find actually be worth millions? Claudia is determined to find out.
by Ellen Raskin
When 16 strangers gather for the reading of Samuel W. Westing’s will, a strange series of events unfolds. Each person becomes an unknowing participant in a wild and possibly dangerous game.
Who will inherit the deceased game-loving billionaire’s fortune? One of the 16 unlikely contestants. “Great fun for those who enjoy illusion, word play, or sleight of hand,” says The New York Times Book Review.
by Rebecca Stead
One day out of the blue, Miranda starts receiving mysterious notes. At first, she doesn’t know what to do. The notes instruct her to write a letter, a true story, but to keep it a secret. She does her best to ignore the messages until they take a scary twist. Whoever is writing them can predict the future. Now the sender says that someone is going to die. Can Miranda write fast enough to save some unlucky soul?
by Caroline B. Cooney
Mystery and suspense converge when the complications of family, friendship, and love collide in “The Face on the Milk Carton” from bestselling author Caroline B. Cooney.
Janice Johnson never paid attention to the faces of the missing kids on the milk cartons. One morning, she happens to look and sees an ordinary girl with pigtails and a white-collared dress. The little girl was kidnapped over 12 years ago at a shopping mall in New Jersey. Upon a closer look, Janice is overcome with shock and anxiety. The little girl is her. In a brave move, she sets out to solve the mystery of her own identity.
by Karen M. McManus
Five strangers, Bronwyn, the brain; Addy, the beauty; Nate, the criminal; Cooper, the athlete; and Simon, the outcast, attend detention on a Monday afternoon. By the end of the period, Simon is dead and the others are left pointing fingers. His death wasn’t an accident, so which of the misfits did it? How far will they go to protect their secrets?
Which mystery books for kids would you add to this list? Share in the comments!