Whodunits for kids - FamilyEducation

Whodunits for kids

October 07,2011
Professor Mom
Aliki McElreath

Aliki is a writer and college English teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children (ages seven and ten), a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and too many fish.

A good friend of mine e-mailed me recently to ask if I had any good mystery book suggestions for her son (a 4th grader). As an adult reader I love mysteries, personally, but my love affair with them started a long time ago, when I was little. My all-time favorites when I was a child were the books in the Famous Five series by British writer Enid Blyton. I think I was reading Agatha Christie mysteries by the time I was nine, and I wrote my first mystery book when I was about eight (about an abandoned old house--in the days when there were houses in Athens and not just apartment buildings--not far from the apartment where my Greek grandparents lived). T. seems to be developing quite an interest in mysteries as well, and she especially likes the Cam Jansen mysteries, and the Capital Mysteries series as well as the Nancy Drew notebook series. L. tends to enjoy futuristic science fiction more than mysteries, but he has read quite a few whodunits, and I thought this post could be a good place to share the list with my friend, as well as with other parents looking for good suspensful reads for their older elementary school kids--especially boys.

So here is my link-filled list of good mystery reads for elementary school kids--just in time for the weekend, and a chance to hit your local library!

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Of course, if you're looking for a very classic whodunit mystery series, you can't go wrong with The Hardy Boys. Two years ago, L. went through a big Hardy Boys kick and I think he's read every book in the series. His collection (almosty all of it scored at thrift stores and off of Craigslist) takes up almost an entire bookshelf.

I know lots of elementary school kids who gobble up the 39 Clues series, so it's certainly worth giving the series a try. L. has only read two books out of the series, and when I asked him if he liked them he said "they're okay" but then wasn't interested in reading more.

This book, by Avi, is one of L.'s favorites. It's not technically a mystery of the whodunit variety, but it is a gripping story with elements of a mystery woven in. Midnight Magic, also by Avi (we love Avi around here), is another historical mystery, with lots of magic thrown into the mix--great for budding Harry Potter fans. And, while you're giving Avi a try, Something Upstairs is more of a ghost story than a true mystery, but it definitely has lots of intrigue and thrills built into the plot.

If your child enjoys history and pirates, this one is a good read, with lots of twists and turns to keep any reader flipping the pages!

Framed might be a book for older kids (5th grade and up), but you have to love a book about a kid whose best friends are chickens!

With Halloween aprpoaching, this mystery might be a little ghoulish, but it should please kids who like spooks and monsters mixed with a good mystery.

I really thought L. would like this book, The Strange Case of the Origami Yoda, but he was lukewarm. He thought the structure of the book was neat--it's set up as "case files" and he liked those details, but I don't think the story appealed to him. Still, I think it's worth checking out, even if to just appreciate the design and cleverness of the book itself.

How can you not love a heroine who's named Herculeah? This series caught my eye last time we were at the library. T. is a bit young for them still, and I couldn't get L. away from the rack of Tintin comics to look at the books ("that's a mystery for girls," he said, much to my dismay) but the books look promising. I can't wait until T. is a little older and can read them!

The View from the Cherry Tree is a classic mystery written by Willo Davis Roberts (one of my favorites). It features a boy who feels overlooked by his family, and he takes refuge in his favorite tree. While up there he witnesses the murder of the neighborhood busy-body, and must solve the case!

Please feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments below--I'd love to add to the list!

Happy weekend...and happy reading!