Are you looking for great literature to introduce your upper elementary students to mysteries? I’ve used many of these books in my classes during our mystery genre study. Although I loved to read mysteries in October around Halloween, these mysteries can be read any time of the year! Check them out for a quick summary and ideas for teaching different reading skills or strategies! All of these books have mystery elements strewn throughout the stories. They can be found on my Amazon list! Click HERE to browse.
A rabbit-tale mystery by Deborah and James Howe (Grades 3-5)
The hilarious story is told from the perspective of a dog named Harold. It is centered around the Monroe family and their pets. The Monroes bring home a bunny found in a theater at a Dracula movie, so they name him Bunnicula. Chester, their cat, thinks Bunnicula is a vampire and tries to convince Harold to help him get rid of Bunnicula. Chester and Harold get in many predicaments that will leave you laughing and anticipating the next event.
This book has many opportunities to teach vivid word choice, figurative language, vocabulary, and inferences.
A ghost story and murder mystery by Cynthia DeFelice (Grades 4-7)
Allie Nichols is an eleven-year-old girl who enjoys rock climbing. In one dangerous climb, she hears a ghostly voice that she trusts to help her off the rocks to safety. When the ghost follows her, she decides to investigate and found many clues with her friend Dub. They can’t believe what they discover! You will find this book very suspenseful, yet age-appropriate.
It is the perfect book for predictions before each chapter, teaching themes, synthesizing, and sequencing.
A puzzle-packed adventure by Chris Grabenstein (Grades 3-5)
This book features an eccentric billionaire who invites sixth grade students to an overnight stay in his library that not only has books, but a theater, electronics and interactive components. Kyle was excited to be one of the selected few since he loves games and admired Mr. Lemoncello for creating such a futuristic library. When morning comes, the doors remain locked. There is nonstop fun and adventure as they follow book-related clues and unravel secret puzzles to find an escape route to win a fabulous prize. One of the children, Kyle, loves games.
This book works well for teaching character traits, different perspectives, summarizing, and point of view.
An art-historical mystery by E.L. Kongigsburg (Grades 4-5)
A twelve-year-old Claudia Kincaid decides to run away from her suburban living to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Since she doesn’t have enough money, she invites her younger brother, Jamie. He was quiet with a stash of money. The children take baths in the fountains and sleep in royal beds ignoring the restrictions at the museum. Their vacation turns into adventure when the museum purchased an angel statue by Michelangelo in auction. Wasn’t it worth millions? The children decide to investigate this mystery! Follow along their adventure and discover many mystery elements!
Great skills found in this book include point of view, foreshadowing, and inferences.
A series of adventure novels by Rick Riordan and various authors (Grades 5-7)
The 39 Clues books feature 14-year-old Amy Cahill and her younger brother Dan on a quest to discover their powerful family’s secret. 39 clues are hidden around the world. The clues will reveal the family’s secret. The two siblings compete with less honorable family members to win the family fortune by collecting 39 clues. In the first book, they find two clues. They learn about their dead parents, each other, and world history. This book has plenty of plot twists, fun humor, and peeks into history!
There are opportunities to teach vocabulary, story elements, and writing skills such as ideas, organization, and voice.
The Secret Series by Pseudonymous Bosch (Grades 3-7)
Cass and Max-Ernest are 11-year-old classmates who are nothing alike. They try to solve the mystery of a magician who disappeared. The real estate agent, Gloria Fortune, has items from the house. There are dozens of sparkling crystal vials, a Symphony of Smells, and messages in a notebook. The children come across wealthy and evil villains in their hair-raising, funny adventures. You must keep the BIG secret after your finish reading the book!
Lessons in this book can focus around plot, reasoning, and compare/contrast.
A series of mystery novels by Wendelin Van Draanen (Grades 3-8)
Sammy is a seventh grader who seems to be a magnet for trouble. She is always in the wrong place at the wrong time and her curiosity gets the best of her. Throughout the series, she sniffs out clues, chases villains, and drives her friends nuts. Sammy’s mother is off trying to be a movie star, so Sammy lives with her grandmother in a SENIORS ONLY housing complex. In the first book, Sammy witnessed a burglary and the thief saw her. The thief is after her, she has to deal with a nosy neighbor, and the mean girl at her new school is making her life miserable. She gets suspended on her first day of school! Sammy perseveres!
Teaching skills great for this book is character development, text evidence, and cause-effect.
A mystery book series by Donald J. Soboln (Grades 3-5)
The series of books featuring the adventures of boy detective Leroy Brown, nicknamed “Encyclopedia” for his intelligence. Encyclopedia Brown, can solve any crime for just 25 cents a day (plus expenses), and usually before dinner time. Encyclopedia solves mysteries for neighborhood kids through his own detective agency with his knack for trivia. His dad is the chief of the Idaville police department, so Encyclopedia also helps him solve difficult cases around the dinner table each night.
The teaching skills that work well for this book are homonyms/synonyms, figurative language, antagonist/protagonist, and comparing characters.
Children’s detective fiction series by James Preller (Grades 2-4)
This series works best with lower-level students. It has simple sentences and the vocabulary is not challenging. Jigsaw Jones is an ace detective and Mila is his partner. He realizes that mysteries are like jigsaw puzzles–you have to look at all the pieces to solve the case! Jigsaw Jones has seen everything from missing hamsters and lost coins to stolen baseball cards and haunted houses. Jigsaw has an eye for detail and jots everything down in his top-secret detective journal. Jigsaw and Mila look forward to each new case!
Teaching opportunities for this book are context clues, questioning, comparing characters and events, story elements, and sequencing.
The first book of an on-going middle-grade fantasy series by Michael Buckley (Grades 5-6)
This series features two sisters, Sabrina and Daphne, who become orphans after the mysterious disappearance of their parents. This humorous mystery series has extraordinary circumstances. The girls are sent to live with their mysterious grandmother, Relda Grimm, who they thought was dead! Granny lives in a strange town in New York State, known for unexplained and unusual crimes. Granny tells the girls they have two famous ancestors, the Brothers Grimm, whose classic book of fairy tales is actually a collection of case files of magical mischief. The girls take on the family responsibility of being fairy tale detectives. In the first book, the girls have an adventure to stop a giant from destroying their hometown.
This book has opportunities to teach reading strategies such as visualizing, predicting, and connections.
A fun mystery novel by Andrew Clements (Grades 3-5)
Ted Hammond is a fifth-grader in a one-room school in his small town of Plattsford, Nebraska. He loves a good mystery. He investigates an abandoned house when he sees a face in the window along his paper route. The school is shrinking and the town is dying. Ted gets his teacher to help him decide on what to do about the mystery. He learns that one mystery leads into another!
There are places in the story for discussing themes, foreshadowing, symbolism, and inferences.
A classic children’s series by Gertrude Ann Warner (Grades 3-4)
This series tells the story of four orphaned children, Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny. They create a home for themselves in an abandoned boxcar in the forest. They eventually meet their grandfather, who is a wealthy and kind man (although the children had believed him to be cruel). The children decide to live with him and the beloved boxcar was transferred to his backyard as a playhouse. The children encounter many adventures and mysteries in their neighborhood or places they visit with their grandfather. Learn how the children are inventive and resourceful.
Skills to teach in this story may be point of view, character traits, settings, plots and vocabulary.
A mystery series by David A. Adler (Grades 3-5)
This series is a collection of lighthearted mysteries for beginning readers who are making the transition to longer chapter books. Fifth-grader Cam and her friend Eric use the clues around them to detect, solve, and help people. Cam Jansen has a photographic memory and loves solving all the mysteries that come her way. The stories tell about how Cam uses her memory and all the fun along the way. The books are formulated with simple sentences without challenging vocabulary.
There are opportunities for connections, memory skills, cause and effect, and compare and contrast.
A popular mystery series for children by Ron Roy (Grades 3-5)
The A-Z Mysteries were a popular series among my kiddos! The books follow the adventures of three nine-year-old detectives who live in a small town, Green Lawn, Connecticut. Dink, Josh, and Ruth Rose live near each other and solve crimes and mysteries. The books challenge the reader to figure out “who did it” and often offer a twist in the end. Each story takes the reader through suspense as the characters unearth the truth. Read their adventures in alphabetical order or in any order you please!
Teaching skills may include sequencing, parts of speech, compare and contrast, and work work.
A mystery book by Ellen Raskin (Grades 5 and up)
A mysterious realtor, Barney Northrup, is selling apartments to a selected group of tenants in a new building called Sunset Towers. It overlooks the abandoned mansion of Samuel Westing. Westing is a self-made millionaire who made his fortune in paper products. He was very patriotic and never smoked, drank, or gambled. When Sam Westing dies, he names most of the tenants as heirs in his will. The will is structured as a puzzle and claims that one of the tenants is the murderer. They are put in eight pairs, assigned seemingly at random. Each pair is given $10,000 cash and a different set of baffling clues. Whoever solves the mystery will inherit Westing’s entire $200 million fortune and control of his company. The ending is an unexpected twist!
This story is great for teaching imagery, context clues, summarizing, and critical thinking.
Please Note: All links are subject to change. If you come across one that is no longer available, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will change it out or delete it!
More Mentor Text blog posts: MENTOR TEXT LISTS AND SUMMARIES
Are you looking for mystery activities to do in your classroom or homeschool? Students get so excited about mysteries that they don’t realize they are learning! This bundle covers reading, writing, and higher-level thinking. It has a fun detective tri-fold for mystery writing, chapter activities for Bunnicula, and a fun Nursery Rhyme Mystery project!