Who can forget the thrill of testing their deductive skills against Encyclopedia Brown, “intrepid fifth grader, voracious reader and crackerjack private eye”? Or the suspense of flipping to the back of the book to see if your hypotheses were correct?
If mystery books like Encyclopedia Brown were totally your jam back in the day, you’ll love sharing this collection of modern-day solve-it-yourself mysteries with your students.
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The original series: Encyclopedia Brown
Encyclopedia Brown was kid lit’s brilliant boy detective who inspired millions of young readers to think outside of the box. Donald J. Sobol, a pioneer in the solve-it-yourself-mystery genre for kids, wrote the first Encyclopedia Brown book in 1963, and his 29th was published posthumously in 2012.
Each book in the series follows the same formula: ten short mysteries ending with a cliffhanger followed by a leading question to help readers solve the mystery. The best part? Flipping to the back to read the solution.
Best for readers with a keen eye: Crime and Puzzlement by Lawrence Treat
Encourage your students to pay attention to detail with this series of picture mysteries. Read the story, ponder the picture for clues, then solve the mystery. For readers in grade 5 and up. For readers in grades 2–5, try You’re the Detective! 24 Solve-Them-Yourself Mysteries by the same author.
Best girl-power mysteries: Meg Mackintosh Mystery Series by Lucinda Landon
Meg Mackintosh is a scrappy, smart detective who loves solving problems and gets excited about the challenge of unlocking a good mystery. Follow her and her classmates on their many adventures and see if your detective skills can match Meg’s. For readers in grades 2–4.
Best for folktale lovers: Stories to Solve by George Shannon
Third and fourth graders will enjoy each of these 14 intriguing mysteries from world folklore and love trying to unravel each fable’s meaning. Turn the page to discover the explanation and explore further details about each tale’s origin in the back.
Best for quick sleuthing: Five-Minute Mini-Mysteries by Stan Smith
This volume contains 30 traditional whodunit mystery stories combined with logic puzzles that readers can solve in a quick five minutes. Great for students in grades 4–6 to tackle in those odd spare minutes in the classroom.
Best for learning how to talk like an old-timey detective: The 10-Minute Detective by Christopher Golden
Tough-talking main character Justin Case leads readers through 25 mysteries with major attitude. Each story features full-page crime-scene illustrations to help solve the case. For readers in grades 6 and up.
Best for building powers of deduction: Great Quicksolve Whodunit Puzzles: Mini-Mysteries for You to Solve by Jim Sukach
Join detective J.L. Quicksolve and his son, Junior, on the case as they examine crime scenes, interview suspects, and piece together tricky details in these 25 colorful mini-mysteries. Use the hints in the back to get to the bottom of each mystery. For readers in grades 4–6.
Best for lovers of Sherlock Holmes: Whodunit Crime Mysteriesand Whodunit Crime Puzzles by Hy Conrad
The action-packed stories in these books by Hy Conrad feature the sleuthing skills of Sherman Oliver Holmes, great-great-grandson of Sherlock. See if you can keep up with him as he uncovers every crime in town. Then try your hand at solving the mystery before checking the solutions at the back of the book.
Have you and your students read any of these books? Any more suggestions to add to the list? Come and share in our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook.