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Best Mystery Book Series for Children

Updated on September 14, 2013

Great Mystery Books For (And About!) Kids

Hot genres come and go (books about vampires and zombies, anyone?), but in the world of children's books one of the most perennially popular types of books are mystery books. These books usually feature a young person (or group of young people) stumbling upon or seeking out mysteries and crimes to solve. And while the adults in their lives may scoff at their efforts, the kids always figure it out at the end, using imagination, intelligence, and determination.

What makes the mystery genre so popular for children? Well, part of it is because it encourages children to figure out the mystery along with the characters and use their brains. Children are also thrilled by gentle danger, which mystery books generally have--the heroes may have a close call or two, but it all works out in the end.

If you're looking for great, wholesome mystery books for your child, read on!

An Episode from the Nancy Drew Series

The Nancy Drew Series

When you think of mystery book series for kids, probably the first series that pops into your mind is Nancy Drew--and for good reason! The first Nancy Drew book, The Secret of the Old Clock, was published in 1930 (though the author is a pseudonym and did not exist) and is still very successful today.

Though Nancy underwent some changes through the years (revisions to remove racism from the earlier novels, and then later books made a concerted effort to make her more "modern"), she remains the same character at heart--smart, self-possessed, and with a great talent for getting to the bottom of any mystery, often with the help of her loyal friends.

The books are less focused on romance and the typical problems of teens today than they are on solving mysteries, making them an excellent choice for even younger readers.

An Episode from the Hardy Boys Series

The Hardy Boys Series

The Hardy Boys books, also written under a pseudonym, were created by the same man who created the Nancy Drew books, and have also been quite a draw for readers since the first book was published in 1927. The adventures of the Hardy Boys were immediately successful, and the two teenagers who feature in the series are wealthy and well-traveled, solving mysteries all over. They also frequently help their detective father.

The Hardy Boys have a bit more danger and adventure in them than the Nancy Drew books, though they've undergone roughly the same metamorphosis, undergoing revision to remove racism from earlier books and becoming more "modern" through the decades.

Nate the Great Series

Nate the Great is another beloved children's mystery series. Nate is a bit younger than the heroes in Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys, and in fact he is a child version of Sherlock Holmes. He has a trusty dog companion, Sludge, and the two share an intense love of pancakes.

Nate the Great is definitely a bit more whimsical than the previous two series on the list, and as such they hold charm for adults to read to their children. Nate is also a good example for younger readers; not only is he intelligent and determined, but he is also thoughtful, considerate, and kind.

What is your favorite children's mystery series?

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The Boxcar Children

The Boxcar Children is one of the most beloved series of children's books today, and while the first book is not a traditional mystery, the later books feature the children tackling mysteries and finding clues on their various summer vacations and school breaks. Written by a first-grade teacher (Gertrude Chandler Warner) in 1927, the first book features four children named Jessie, Henry, Violet, and Benny.

They run away, afraid of going to live with their cruel grandfather (who turns out to be no such thing), and live in an old boxcar in the woods, fending for themselves. The four characters have distinct personalities and are well-rounded with both good and bad traits, making them all likeable and relatable. Eventually, of course, everything ends well and they find a loving home with their grandfather before becoming amateur detectives/crime solvers.

These books are easy, quick reads that children have been snapping up since publication.

Choosing a Mystery Book for Your Child

The books on this list are beloved by children for a reason: they're wholesome yet exciting, with characters who are great role models. What's your favorite children's mystery series?


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