Getting the kiddos to commit to anything—whether it’s eating their veggies or picking up their socks—can often feel like a chore. But LBH, reading is definitely more fun than eating broccoli (no $h!t, Sherlock), especially when page-turning mystery books are the genre of choice. From basic BabyLit primers (think along the lines of “who stole the cookies from the cookie jar?”) to suspenseful thrillers with a more substantial storyline, it’s never too early to get your little ones to jump onboard the mystery bandwagon.
So what exactly does a good mystery entail? Ultimately, mystery books present an issue or problem at the start of the story that will need to be solved. Clues will then be weaved in throughout the plot as the main characters collect the “bread crumbs” to solve the case or come to a solution. Think classic Nancy Drew problem-solving techniques. With good friends (and overtly obvious clues), there is always a happy outcome waiting to be revealed.
Check out these 12 page-turning mystery books for kids and teens that will instill a newfound love for reading in 2020. From OG classics that you read as a child to popular YA chapter book series that get you so hooked you end up binge-reading the entire series (#guilty), there’s a little something for everyone.
For the budding bibliophile, may we recommend this BabyLit primer featuring Sherlock Holmes? While there’s no dire mystery to be solved, it packs no shortage of action. One Amazon reviewer writes: “We have been practicing making noises with Sherlock Holmes. It’s really fun making the word “Rustle” sound like leaves rustling or the word “Howl” sound like dogs howling.”
#CantStopWontStop reading this early chapter book series from New York Times bestselling author Troy Cummings. What to expect? Monsters, humor, and no shortage of jam-packed fun (pssst: you’ll find illustrations on every page). This so-NOT-scary plot follows a boy named Alexander as he uncovers The Notebook of Doom (!). Have we piqued your interest yet?
Boost reading confidence from day one with Scholastic’s early chapter book line Branches. The first installment of the series introduces readers to an owl named Tag and his BFF Skyla (a small but mighty squirrel) as they go on a quest to save Perodia from dark forces and, more importantly, defeat the powerful Thorn.
Come one, come all: This funnnay alliteration-filled picture book is game for storytime. The detective agency, Gumshoe Zoo, faces a doozy when they learn that Betty’s Bakery has been burglarized. Carla on Amazon raves: “It was really entertaining! It’s a clever crime conundrum that’s sure to satisfy the storytelling needs of children and adults alike.”
Move over Sherlock: Cam Jansen’s the new detective in town. Ease your kindergartener into chapter books with this thrilling adventure series starring Cam Jansen—a fifth-grade sleuth. (Side note: We love a good female lead.) In this installment, Cam and Eric use their photographic memory (and camera) to crack a case regarding an alien invasion.
This brilliant chapter series from 13-year-old Hilde Lysiak (ahem, the youngest member of the Society of Professional Journalists) will have your child begging to play detective at home. In the first case, Hilde helps investigate a break-in on Orange Street (stolen cupcakes, oh my!). Our favorite part—the Reporter’s Toolbox—contains important jargon (like “confession” and “press pass”) to give young readers an inside look into the world of investigative journalism.
File under kid-friendly mystery that the whole family will know and love. Cue the Mystery Machine as Scooby-Doo, Fred, Daphne, Velma, and Shaggy (our favorite dream team) set sail on their latest adventure. A haunted pirate ship occupied by Captain Angus Grimm and his skeleton crew is the only thing standing in their way.
Jeepers creepers! You’ve got to hand it to R.L. Stine—he’s nearly perfected the art of writing a bone-chilling (but not too scary) mystery series. If you loved reading Goosebumps as a pre-teen, then just wait until your ~mature~ eight-year-old dives into this thriller featuring Slappy, a ventriloquist’s dummy.
We don’t typically like to judge a book by its cover but how fun does this adaption of the OG Nancy Drew series look? Pre-tween daughters will especially enjoy the undercover outfits and fresh take on crime-solving. Nancy and her boyfriend Ned must investigate when an interviewee for his podcast NedTalks finds himself in a sticky situation.
Harriet the spy is yet another strong AF, coming-of-age female protagonist who doesn’t take $h!t. Originally published in 1964, this highly acclaimed children’s book centers on Harriet’s adventures—notably her hand-written observations of all her classmates and friends. But what happens when said notebook disappears and the (sometimes awful) truth comes out?
Get your fill of adventure (two words: cliff hangers) with this interactive series starring Leroy Brown, a ten-year-old star detective, and his police chief dad. As So Cal Dad notes on Amazon, “Gets them listening, thinking, and engaging. Read the story, find the clues, make your guesses, flip to the back and see if you were right!”
Many of y’all may recognize James Patterson for his fast-paced mystery novels, including the Alex Cross series of books that have sold over 100 million copies. In 2019, Patterson entered the YA market with Ali Cross, the first in a new mystery series for teens. Ali Cross follows the son of Alex as he plays detective to find his missing best friend.
Need new book recommendations to jumpstart 2020? Check out these best books to build your toddler’s library.