First Chapter Books: Mysteries to Solve

Eliza Clark
April 1, 2016

A while back, over the summer (remember summer?), we wrote a review of our favorite picture book mysteries for the preschool crowd. Those books are fantastic, don't get us wrong, but it's hard to develop a complex mystery plot with a picture on every other page. So if your preschoolers enjoyed whodunits in picture book form, they are in for some real excitement when they begin to read. 

In our Savvy (yet humble) opinion, early reader mysteries are among the best ever written. Kids, after all, are the original detectives. Their big job in life is to figure out the mysterious, not to say bizarre, ways of the adult world around them, and only fellow children can truly understand. So it's no wonder that young readers adore these stories of kid detectives who fearlessly follow the clues wherever they lead. And if you can't already tell, some grown-up readers are very fond of these tales as well.

Each of the stories linked to below are the first in their series, so if your kids like one, they've got loads of reading fun ahead of them. So much to look forward to!

The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Warner

Originally published in 1924, and reissued in 1942, this series is so well done that it still entrances the elementary school kids who are lucky enough to come across it. Author Gertrude Warner was a first grade teacher and knew how to write for kids. The story is of four orphans who run away to live in an abandoned boxcar. In the subsequent books in the series, they solve mysteries wherever they go. The books, over 100 in number, were written over a long period of time, so some are set in the 1940s and 50s, and some in contemporary times.

Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective by Donald J. Sobol (pictured above)

Leroy, aka Encyclopedia, Brown has a head so full of facts that he can solve almost any mystery just by closing his eyes and thinking hard. This comes in handy for his dad, chief of the Idaville police. They have great dinner table conversations: dad talks about his unsolved cases, and Encyclopedia cracks them! This series of mysteries, first published in 1963, is as popular as ever with early readers. Each chapter presents a new case for the clever young hero to solve, and gives readers all the clues so that they can work the case along side him. Answers to the case are in the back of the book—time for kids to put their thinking caps on!

A to Z Mysteries: The Absent Author by Ron Roy

A trio of friends gets together to solve mysteries in this well-written series, perfect for newly minted independent readers. In the first installment, Dink (otherwise known as Donald David Duncan), Josh, and Ruth Rose search for their favorite mystery author who has mysteriously gone missing. The kids are savvy sleuths, and their teamwork is delightful. Author Ron Roy keeps the clues and plot twists coming, and has kids pleading to read "one more chapter" when it's time for lights out. Just this once? Pleeeaaase!!! What better review could any parent ask for?

Cam Jansen and the Mystery of the Stolen Diamonds by David A. Adler

Here is another series written by a former school teacher—those teachers know a thing or two! (Here is a great interview with the author.) Cam Jansen is a little girl with a photographic memory who can solve any mystery big or small. These books are designed for kids who read slowly but whose minds think fast. Know anyone like that? We certainly do. The books all have very clear language, yet are filled with action to keep young readers interested. We especially love Cam, the curious, assertive, and clever little girl at the center of it all.


The Savvy Source is an Amazon affiliate. 

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