Who doesn’t love a good mystery? The thrill of catching the culprit or finding the treasure—whatever the adventure involves, fascinates book lovers of all ages. And yes, I put treasure hunting in with mysteries because there’s almost always puzzles and riddles to solve. Plus, not everyone’s idea of an exciting read involves coming across a dead body (weird, right?)
What is it, aside from the above-mentioned thrills, that draws us to mysteries? Our innate sense of justice? Our desire to have a wrong put right? I know for myself, it’s the challenge of matching my wits (or sometimes the lack thereof) against a detective’s to see if I can solve the crime before they do.
And speaking of detectives, if someone were to ask you to name a famous literary sleuth, who would you say? Sherlock Holmes? Hercule Poirot? Miss Marple? I mean, it’s only natural. They practically built the Fictional Detective Hall of Fame. But there are so many other puzzle-solving brainiacs . . . who aren’t adults!
Don’t get me wrong—I love a good Agatha Christie whodunit. (My personal favorite crime solver is Hercule Poirot, with his love of hot chocolate and his adoration of his own “little grey cells”). But I’m going to let you in on a secret middle-grade readers deduced a while ago . . . kids’ mysteries are just as fun, just as well-written, and the detectives are just as cool.
And good news . . . middle grade mysteries aren’t just for the middle grade kids in your life.
Have you (yes, you) considered reading a middle grade mystery? In 2013, the Wall Street Journal ran an article written by Alexandra Alter, stating more and more adults are reading middle grade and young adult books. The trend has steadily continued. And seriously, why not? Middle grade mysteries are awesome and their plots, characters, and often times humor are also elements adults enjoy.
Consider this quote by C. S. Lewis : “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.” I could have just shared Lewis’ tidbit of brilliance with you at the very beginning and left it at that since he sums everything up so nicely, but that would’ve made for a very short blog. His point (and mine) is stories and books written for the younger reader can be appreciated by all readers. Forget your age—use that when you want to get a nice bottle of Chardonnay or an AARP discount.
When I read City Spies, by James Ponti I was sucked into the adventure immediately. It took me back to a time when I was younger and thought it would be so cool to work for the FBI or CIA. I even researched it while I was in high school. When I realized all the physical training involved, I figured it wasn’t really for me. (I cannot stress enough how much I hate running). The Friday Barnes series by R. A. Spratt, and the FunJungle series by Stuart Gibbs are hilarious—and let’s face it, adulting is hard and we could all use a good laugh.
So, while you may be on the hunt for a mystery for your kids or students to indulge in, don’t be afraid to read one yourself. I bet you’ll relish the mystery as much as you would any “adult” work.
Here’s a compilation of some fantastic middle grade/young adult mysteries for you (and your kids) that covers everything from poaching to art theft to murder:
Three Times Lucky by Shelia Turnage
Murder is Bad Manners by Robin Stevens
Belly Up by Stuart Gibbs (*you’ll see his name a lot on this list since FunJungle is a series with various crimes)
Lion Down by Stuart Gibbs
Ernestine, Catastrophe Queen by Merrill Wyatt
Poached by Stuart Gibbs
Big Game by Stuart Gibbs
Tyrannosaurus Wrecks by Stuart Gibbs
FRAMED! by James Ponti
Pandamonium by Stuart Gibbs
The Maypop Kidnapping by C.M. Surrisi
A Side of Sabotage by C.M. Surrisi
Treasure Hunt Mysteries:
The Last in a Long Line of Rebels by Lisa Lewis Tyre
The Emperor’s Riddle by Kat Zhang
If You Find This by Matthew Baker
Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein
Treasure Hunters series by James Patterson with Chris Grabenstein
Charlie Thorne and the Last Equation by Stuart Gibbs
City Spies series by James Ponti
Spy School series by Stuart Gibbs
Theodore Boone series by John Grisham
Moving Target by Christina Diaz Gonzalez
Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz (Young Adult)
Jada Sly, Artist & Spy by Sherri Winston
Lower Middle Grade Mysteries (grades 3-4)
Friday Barnes series by R. A. Spratt
The Platypus Police Squad series by Jarrett J. Krosczka
CLUBHOUSE MYSTERIES series by Sharon Draper
Taryn has written both picture books and middle-grade novels. Her stories have been named to state reading lists, including the Georgia Children’s Book Awards and the Sunshine State Young Readers Awards, have taken part in Battle of the Books, and have been Crystal Kite Finalists. Her fourth book, a middle grade novel, Coop Knows the Scoop, is a murder mystery set in Windy Bottom, Georgia. Taryn is a member of both SCBWI and Word Weavers International, and is represented by Sally Apokedak of Apokedak Literary Agency. She currently lives in Sorrento, Florida with her husband, David, their three children, and two cats—an overly fuzzy Ragdoll named Mordecai and a polydactyl Hemingway named Sebastian—who like to terrorize flies (the cats, not her husband or children). While she’s somewhat decent at math, she is terrible at science and has an intense dislike of tarantulas.