When I was in elementary school, I loved Harriet the Spy, Encyclopedia Brown, Cam Jansen, and the Bobbsey Twins. In middle school, I moved on to Agatha Christie. As an adult, I still love books featuring sneaky spies, clever detectives, and intriguing mysteries. Here are a few great books to jumpstart a lifelong love of this genre.
Written by Jessica Young
Illustrated by Charles Santoso
Kids will love this story featuring a sweet father/son relationship and a main character who needs a lot of persistence to become a good spy.
Ages 4-7 | Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers | 2015 | ISBN-13: 978-0544208599
Written by Tara Lazar
Illustrated by Ross McDonald
Did 7 really eat 9? Private I must solve the case! The clever wordplay in this book will make it a hit even with older elementary school kids.
Ages 5-7 | Publisher: Disney-Hyperion | 2015 | ISBN-13: 978-1484717790
Written by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat
Illustrated by Marc Simont
Nate the Great is a kid detective who solves mysteries for friends in his neighborhood. Even though Sharmat wrote this book the year I was born, my own daughter still loved it. This first title and others in the series have humor, logic, and simple sentence structure for beginning readers.
Ages 6-9 | Publisher: Yearling | 1977 (Reprint) | ISBN-13: 978-0440461265
Written by Donald J. Sobol
The Encyclopedia Brown books star a 10-year-old detective. Unlike many mystery stories, the reader actually has enough information to solve each case. This is another series that has stood the test of time and was a hit with my own children.
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Puffin Books | 2007 (Reprint) | ISBN-13: 978-0142409855
Written by Robin Newman
Illustrated by Deborah Zemke
What mystery can kids relate to better than a missing cake??? Wilcox and Griswold are mouse detectives who lead readers on a humorous chase to find the culprit.
Ages 5-11 | Publisher: Creston Books | 2015 | ISBN-13: 978-1939547170
Middle Grade Books
Written by Dan Gutman
Last summer, my son declared he had already read ALL the good books. Then he found this series and absolutely devoured it. Twelve-year-old genius twins Coke and Pepsi get pulled into a crazy world of evil guys in bowler hats and Frisbee grenades. Plenty of (violent) excitement and high-tech gadgets (Juniper Kai would approve), with strange-but-true tourist destinations thrown in.
Order a Copy Now: Amazon |
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: HarperCollins | 2011 (Reprint) | ISBN-13: 978-0545390224
Written by Stuart Gibbs
Ben is thrilled when he is recruited, in middle school, to the C.I.A.’s Academy of Espionage. But things don’t go quite as smoothly as planned! This series has humor, action, and adventure (and also a romantic element).
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers | 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-1534442887
For Older Readers
Written by Agatha Christie
Once kids graduate from Stuart Gibbs and Dan Gutman, I think they are ready for the queen of mysteries herself. In addition to Murder on the Orient Express, with its fabulous twist ending, try The Murder of Roger Ackroydfor another mystery that will blow any middle schooler’s mind.
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Ages 15+ | Publisher: HarperCollins | 2015 (Reprint) | ISBN-13: 978-0008158613
About Laura Gehl
Laura Gehl is the author of many popular picture books, including One Big Pair of Underwear, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld; the Peep and Egg series, illustrated by Joyce Wan; and My Pillow Keeps Moving, illustrated by Christopher Weyant. She lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland, with one husband, four children, and seventeen fake mustaches.
Written by Laura Gehl
Illustrated by Alexandria Neonakis
Publisher’s Synopsis: Juniper Kai was born to be a spy. And while spies sometimes work alone, Juniper has always been able to count on her mom and dad to fill in as spy partners. Until now. Suddenly, Juniper’s parents are too busy and too tired to play with her. And when they start whispering behind Juniper’s back and making secret plans, she knows something really big is going on. So Juniper sets out on a new mission: to find out exactly what her parents are up to. And the answer might be absolutely spy-tacular!
Ages 4-8 | Publisher: Two Lions | September 3, 2019 | ISBN-13: 978-1542043328
Buy the Book
Check out the free downloadable curriculum guide at http://www.lauragehl.com/curriculum-guides.
Enter for a chance to win a copy of Laura Gehl’s Juniper Kai: Super Spy!
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Laura Gehl, author of Juniper Kai: Super Spy, curated the book list Spy-tacular Stories Featuring Spies, Detectives, and Mysteries. Discover more articles on The Children’s Book Review tagged with Detective Books, Laura Gehl, Mysteries, and Spy Books.