Mysteries get reluctant readers enthusiastic about reading. Use these lessons and resources to help students explore the Mystery Genre.
Books to Support a Mystery Genre Study
Choose from read-alouds, guided reading books, and professional books.
From Unit Plan: Exploring the Mystery Genre
This booklist includes books to support your mystery genre study. It is divided into categories of books that are good for reading aloud, popular series of books that work well for guided reading groups, and professional books that provide teachers with additional lessons.
Picture Book Mysteries
Because they are short and sweet, these books can be used to demonstrate for students the basic elements of a mystery. I use many of these books for reading aloud.
The Case of the Missing Monkey by Cynthia Rylant
Ace detectives and very best friends Bunny Brown and Jack Jones work together to solve a case involving monkeys that are missing.
Detective LaRue by Mark Teague
The Hibbins's cats are missing and Ike is taking the blame. Readers can follow Ike's pawprints into the dark alleyways of Snort City as this doggie detective tries to solve the crime and clear his reputation. This story is the sequel to Dear Mrs. Larue: Letters From Obedience School.
The Missing Mitten Mystery by Steven Kellogg
Little Annie and her dog, Oscar, spend a snowy day searching for her lost red mitten. They retrace their steps, looking for the mitten where they sledded and where they built snow castles. Annie dreams of some places where her mitten could be, but when she does finally find it, it is a delightful surprise.
Nate the Great by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat and Mitchell Sharmat
This is the first book in a wonderful series that introduces young readers to the world of mysteries.
The Web Files by Margie Palatini
This silly story follows two "ducktectives" who attempt to "quack the case" of several robberies on a farm.
Young Cam Jansen by David A. Adler
This is a collection of the first four books in this series. In each book of the series, a young Cam Jansen tries to solve everyday mysteries that happen in her town.
Great Mystery Series for Grades 3–5
A to Z Mysteries by Ron Roy
This is a collection of the first four books in this series. In each book of the series, four young characters end up helping solve interesting mysteries in their town.
Classroom Tip: These beginner chapter books are quick reads, but the mysteries are interesting and exciting for kids. I often use one book from this series at the beginning of my mystery unit as a read-aloud to help my students understand the basic features of a mystery.
The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Ann Warner
This series is one that has been around for many years and is still enjoyed by students in grades 3-5. Four orphans find creative ways to stick together through all kinds of exciting mysteries and adventures. In the first book, they turn an abandoned boxcar into their home.
Classroom Tip: I often read aloud the first book in this series so that all students become familiar with the characters. I then use multiples copies of other books in the series for guided reading and book clubs.
Calendar Club Mysteries by Nancy Star
This is a new series of mysteries in which readers will enjoy figuring things out from January to December with the Calendar Club kids.
Classroom Tip: No matter what month you are teaching the mystery genre in your classroom, you can choose one of these timely chapter books to supplement your unit.
Cam Jansen by David A. Adler
This is a collection of four books from this beginning chapter book series. Cam Jansen is the young detective, a young girl with a photographic memory. She uses her amazing memory and the help of her friends to solve everyday mysteries in her town.
Classroom Tip: I use the Cam Jansen books with my third-grade guided reading groups who are just starting to read chapter books. These books are short, and the mystery is solved rather quickly. However, there are enough clues leading up the solution that students can keep track of suspects and red herrings as they read.
Encyclopedia Brown by Donald J. Sobol
This is another longtime favorite series of middle grade readers. The book Encyclopedia Brown Takes the Cake, in particular, is a collection of 13 short mysteries all involving food.
Classroom Tip: Since this book is a collection of short mysteries, I often read one or two of the mysteries to introduce my students to Encyclopedia Brown and to encourage them to read other books from the series that I have in my classroom library.
Jigsaw Jones by James Preller
This is a collection of six books from this chapter book series. With his top-secret detective journal, eye for detail, and ace partner, Mila, Jigsaw is always ready to take on a new case.
Mystic Lighthouse Mysteries by Laura E. Williams
Reminiscent of the classic Hardy Boys whodunits, this is a series set in an old, mysterious lighthouse on the coast on Mystic, Maine, where twins Jen and Zeke work to solve the mysteries around them.
Classroom Tip: I like this series because it features interactive "You Solve It!" suspect sheets. Readers pick up clues the twins have missed along the way and are given a chance to solve the mysteries on their own before the twins reveal all.
24 Ready-to-Go Genre Book Reports by Susan Ludwig
This book is a great supplement for your independent reading program. It includes 24 genre book reports with easy-to-follow directions that help kids reflect meaningfully on fiction, nonfiction, mystery, biography, and historical fiction.
Classroom Tip: If you are looking for another way to conclude your mystery genre study, you will find some creative book reports designed specifically for the mystery genre.
40 Fabulous Math Mysteries Kids Can't Resist by Martin Lee and Marcia K. Miller
This book of reproducible mystery stories helps build essential math skills while also reinforcing the ideas and concepts students are learning in their mystery genre study.
Classroom Tip: This book is a great way to infuse math lessons with the reading skills that students are learning in the mystery genre study!
The Big Book of Ready-to-Go Writing Lessons by Martin Lee and Marcia K. Miller
This book has 50 engaging activities with graphic organizers that teach kids how to tell a story, convey information, describe, persuade and more!
Classroom Tip: The activity on mysteries can be used during Lesson 3 when students are writing their own mysteries.
Reading Skills Mysteries by Dan Greenberg
This book is a collection of whodunits with comprehension questions that help kids identify the main idea, draw conclusions, determine cause and effect, and more.
Classroom Tip: This book includes more mini-lessons for helping your students become familiar with the ingredients of a mystery.
Teaching Genre by Tara McCarthy
This professional book explores nine different types of writing including mysteries, short stories, and biographies, using excerpts, definitions, suggested books, and innovative cross-curricular activities.
Classroom Tip: The section of this book that focuses on mysteries can be used to supplement my mystery unit. It includes a short mystery for students to solve and provides strategies for students to use when reading a mystery.