There’s nothing like a good whodunit to activate your young reader’s imagination and problem-solving skills. Who can resist following the twists and turns to piece together cryptic clues and beat the detective on the case? The best mystery books for kids aren’t just good fun—they also help kids develop key literacy skills like paying attention to detail and understanding cause and effect.
That’s why we’ve put together this list of six of our favorite mystery books for kids. With puzzling clues, relatable characters, and ingenious plots—not to mention lots of laughs—these books will keep gumshoes turning pages ’til dawn. Grab your Sherlock Holmes hat and let’s crack this case wide open!
The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake
Captain Griswold and Detective Wilcox are two hard-boiled, no-nonsense MFIs—Missing Food Investigators. They also happen to be mice in trench coats. But don’t let the fur fool you: these mice are fearless detectives who won’t rest until they catch the crook. With plenty of clues tucked into quick, readable text, your reader will race to solve the case until they reach the ending twist they’ll never see coming. Readers from preschool to second grade will devour this hilarious first installment in the Wilcox and Griswold easy reader series and still be hungry for more.
Surfboard to Peril: A Miss Mallard Mystery
Robert Quackenbush is a master of the easy-to-read chapter book category, so it’s no surprise that the Miss Mallard Mystery stories are among the best mystery books for kids. This installment finds world-famous duck-tective Miss Mallard solving a tricky case involving ancient artifacts, sacred Hawaiian land, and a greedy condominium developer. You’ll appreciate Quackenbush’s clever use of elevated language while your young reader trails the twisty plot and clue-embedded illustrations.
The Secret Zoo
For animal-loving readers who have graduated from early chapter books and are ready for a more challenging mystery, The Secret Zoo is a winner. Book 1 in the series introduces siblings Noah and Megan and their best friends, Richie and Ella. The fearless four live next door to the local zoo, and when the animals start acting a little strange, the kids are hot on the trail—that is, until Megan disappears. Readers will roar with delight as they practice following dialogue and help Noah, Richie, Ella, and a few four-legged helpers find their missing friend.
Legend of the Star Runner
Dust off your magnifying glass for this one. If you’ve got a reader who loves visual puzzles, Legend of the Star Runner is their perfect match. Like a contemporary Encyclopedia Brown, every chapter of this book ends with a puzzle for readers to solve. Each mystery can be solved by discovering the hidden clues in the detailed, full-color illustrations peppering each page. To add another layer of interactive learning , each puzzle has a rating to tell young scouts how Timmi and his friends fared at the challenge, on a scale from easy-peasy to the ultimate challenge.
The Great Ghost Hoax
Fans of James Howe’s classic Bunnicula, rejoice—there’s a new mystery-solving pack of pets on the scene. In this hilarious and just-a-bit-spooky chapter book , an adventure-loving Dachshund named Butterbean and her furry friends investigate the mysterious happenings in their apartment building. Objects move on their own, pets are going missing, and things are going bump in the night. Is it a ghost… or a hoax? The bouncy storyline and snappy banter between the animals help introduce higher-level vocabulary words and advanced dialogue. Third to sixth graders will chase this tale as Butterbean chases her tail.
The Animal Rescue Agency #1: Case File: Little Claws
The Animal Rescue Agency is different than your typical animal rescue. If you think humans are doing the rescuing, think again! The agency is run by the daring (and well-dressed) Esquire Fox and her rooster business partner, Mr. Pepper. Animal lovers will be captivated by Esquire’s adventures as she tracks down a missing baby polar bear. The back of the book is equipped with a “field notes” section with conservation facts, offering a perfect opportunity to get kids digging deeper into the real-life science behind this wild story.
The Clues All Lead to Mystery Books from Literati Book Clubs
The best mystery books for kids provide a unique experience with every read: the first time through, readers are left awestruck. The second, they’re flipping through clues they missed before. It’s twice the reading fun—and a sneaky way to get them dialed in to details and dialogue as they’ve never been before.
Don’t let your junior detective run out of intriguing cases in their to-read pile. When you join the Literati Kids Book Club, your reader will always have a selection of books customized to their tastes and reading level, so you can be sure each title is both engaging and developmentally beneficial. How do you get started? It’s no mystery—just fill out our quick personalization quiz and the game’s afoot!