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Mystery Stories for Kids

A magnifying glass.

Mystery stories for kids seem to become more popular year after year, and for good reason! Most kids love puzzles, and reading a great mystery is just like unraveling a fun literary puzzle that keeps you guessing all the way to the end. Since kids' sections in libraries and bookstores aren't always grouped by genre, it can be tough to find mystery books without asking for recommendations. So the next time you take a trip to the library, invite your kids to try these titles on for size.

Mystery Stories for Kids

Many mystery stories for kids that you'll find are chapter books, since it's such a challenge to set the stage and leave good clues for a mystery in short books with limited words. If your child is too young for chapter books or prefers to read picture books instead, ask a librarian for more specific recommendations.

Series Books

  • Gilda Joyce: This series by Jennifer Allison begins with Gilda Joyce, Psychic Investigator, and follows pre-teen Gilda as she tries to stir up mysteries and mayhem wherever she goes, whether it be an English bed and breakfast or a prep school that seems, at first glance, to be very boring. Gilda is training herself to be psychic, which doesn't always work out quite the way she intends, but she does have a keen sense of observation nonetheless. She's also a very captivating character, and her unique sense of style and laugh-out-loud inner monologues will keep middle-grade readers, especially girls, hooked on the series.
  • The Name of This Book Is Secret: Authored by Pseudonymous Bosch, an as-yet-unmasked children's writer, the middle-grade Secret series begins with the title novel and progresses to follow its two main characters, Cass and Max-Ernest (not their real names, of course--this is a mystery, after all), as they join forces with the Terces Society to figure out the Secret and defeat the villainous Midnight Sun. Bonus: The third book in the series, This Book Is Not Good for You, is all about chocolate.
  • Encyclopedia Brown: This classic series for elementary-school-aged kids, authored by Donald J. Sobol, features a likeable boy detective and encourages its readers to solve the books' mysteries right along with him. All of the mystery solutions and clue explanations are included at the back of each book.
  • The 39 Clues: The middle-grade series by Rick Riordan that spawned a wide variety of fun interactive games and puzzles begins with The Maze of Bones, in which the Cahill siblings embark on a worldwide scavenger hunt.
  • Chet Gecko: Books don't get much funnier than they are in this series by Bruce Hale, which follows fourth-grade reptile detective Chet Gecko and his sidekick, Natalie, as they solve mysteries in the schoolyard and beyond.

Standalone Books

The Westing Game: Who killed Sam Westing? That's the question to answer in this fun and wacky book for elementary schoolers by Ellen Raskin, which drops plenty of clues and red herrings throughout.

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler: One of the best-loved children's books of all time, this title by E.L. Konigsburg is fit for elementary schoolers and follows Claudia and her little brother, Jamie, as they run away from home and hide out for days at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. That plot would be interesting enough on its own, but the ante is upped a few notches when Claudia and Jamie take on an active role in solving a mystery that surrounds a strange and beautiful statue at the museum.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret: Young Hugo lives alone in the heart of Paris, where he keeps a precious automaton that had been previously been owned by his father, a clockmaker. Hugo tries and tries to get the automaton to work, and when it finally does, it delivers a cryptic message from his father and sets the gears of a great mystery in motion. Part narrative and part masteful graphic novel, The Invention of Hugo Cabret is fit for kids as young as five or six and adults of all ages.

Harriet the Spy: Though not exclusively a mystery, Louise Fitzhugh's Harriet the Spy is a coming-of-age tale of a girl detective who is not quite understood by anyone. If you know any kids who are outcasts, they might enjoy this story.

Half-Moon Investigations: Fletcher Moon is a quirky boy detective who has a real talent for spotting and following mysterious clues. But when his detective badge is stolen, he's challenged more than he ever has been before. Middle-grade readers will enjoy the snappy dialogue and memorable characters in this book from the author of the Artemis Fowl series, Eoin Colfer.

The Eleventh Hour: Perfect for younger readers and those who are more visually oriented, The Eleventh Hour, by Graeme Base, is set at an elaborate animal birthday party. Someone has eaten the Elephant's birthday feast, but who? It's a toughie to figure out, but it's so much fun to try.

Mystery Stories for Kids