Seeking mystery novels for a 10 year old who loves bugs
September 10, 2013 9:19 AM   Subscribe

My son is almost 10, and I'm trying to help him develop a love of reading. His requests were mysteries, fictional, and if they could feature anthropomorphic bugs, all the better. In my searching, I did come across Bug Muldoon, which he has devoured. I'd love to find more books that he might enjoy. He said that bugs weren't necessary, but he did very much enjoy them. He recently read all the Encyclopedia Brown novels, and I'm not sure where to go next for him. Are there other authors or series I should be looking at?
posted by Nimmie Amee to Media & Arts (44 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Bunnicula (and the follow-on books) are mysteries that feature animals. Mostly a dog (Harold) and a cat (Chester), but also the eponymous vampire rabbit.He might like The Hardy Boys mysteries, too.
posted by jquinby at 9:26 AM on September 10, 2013 [6 favorites]

When I was that age I discovered (and loved) the Incognito Mosquito series, that just so happened to check all of those boxes.
posted by bookwo3107 at 9:27 AM on September 10, 2013 [5 favorites]

Until I had kids, I never realized how completely awesome librarians are. I would take your son to the library and let him talk about all his interests and get some amazing suggestions.
posted by kinetic at 9:29 AM on September 10, 2013 [4 favorites]

I loved Henry Reed, Inc (and the subsequent books.) A scientific, entrepreneurial kid.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:32 AM on September 10, 2013 [3 favorites]

John Bellairs' gothic mysteries for kids - especially The House with a Clock in its Walls, The Figure in the Shadows, and The Letter, The Witch, and the Ring sold me on reading to myself at your son's age. Bellairs is largely responsible for my still being a compulsive reader 30+ years later.

Also, I was amazed to see, when I was at our public library last week, that there is a young adult book (aimed at kids 10+) about forensic entomology. Not anthropomorphic, but I'd have loved it as a ten year old.
posted by ryanshepard at 9:38 AM on September 10, 2013 [4 favorites]

Second Bellairs. Also Zilpha Keatley Snyder.
posted by Diablevert at 9:41 AM on September 10, 2013

For historical reasons, he might be interested in Poe's early and influential sort-of detective story, "The Gold Bug."
posted by ubiquity at 9:42 AM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Eoin Colfer, Half Moon Investigations. Well written and funny, like all of Colfer's books. No anthropomorphic bugs.

Also by the same author, and better, is his Artemis Fowl series. Lots of intrigue and maybe a little mystery, but mainly a lot of fun. Our son loved it at 10.
posted by mosk at 9:43 AM on September 10, 2013

Seconding Kinetic's idea of asking a librarian - and bonus if you can go to your area's central library or one of the bigger ones -- frequently they will have an actual children's librarian who Knows All Teh Books.
posted by BlahLaLa at 9:53 AM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Please give him any and all Ellen Raskin you can find. The Westing Game is my favorite and easiest to find, but any of her books are top notch.

The Great Brain books by Fitzgerald are great. As are the Snyder books mentioned above.

Also M.T. Anderson's middle grade book The Game of Sunken Places. I think there is a follow up, but can't recall the name.
posted by bibliogrrl at 9:54 AM on September 10, 2013 [6 favorites]

Incognito Mosquito is fantastic. I am 31 and I still have mine, I refuse to sell them or anything.

I know they are old school, but what about the Hardy Boys? They shouldn't be too advanced I don't think. There is a metric ton of them, so if he can get in to them he'd be set for books for a long while.

And agreeing with talking to a librarian. My best friend is a librarian. Even though she isn't currently involved in the children's/young adult section she still keeps up on it and she would probably have dozens of suggestions for your son.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 9:54 AM on September 10, 2013

Perhaps the Flavia de Luce series. It may be borderline age appropriate. They say 9 and up, some parents express concern over the young end of that. They are good books, so it wouldn't be tedious to pick up the first and try it out.
posted by edgeways at 9:56 AM on September 10, 2013

Oh, and if he ends up liking the Hardy Boys, remember there is also Nancy Drew too. I know it is supposedly "for girls" but that is nonsense. I'm a girl and I ready the Hardy Boys books when I was young, along with Nancy Drew. They are both good series.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 10:02 AM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Might he like some nonfiction? At his age I read every book I could find in our little branch library on ants and bees. There are plenty written at kid level, and frankly the way insects work is really a fascinating uncovered mystery.

Also, Charlotte's Web. and The Once and Future King for the part about ants.
posted by bearwife at 10:04 AM on September 10, 2013

If he would try science fiction, Alan Dean Foster's work features sentient bug-like aliens. Friendly ones.
posted by bq at 10:08 AM on September 10, 2013

Response by poster: I'll definitely take suggestions outside the range of his preferences- he's only just learning that reading can be amazing, so I want to foster this enthusiasm and then branch out more.
posted by Nimmie Amee at 10:10 AM on September 10, 2013

At that age, my son loved the Animorphs series by Katherine Applegate. I haven't read them myself, but apparently kids turn into bugs, animals etc. Fun stuff!
posted by fresh-rn at 10:15 AM on September 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

I loved the Danny Dunn books as a kid, which I haven't thought of until I read this question and it mentioned bugs. There was one book in the series where he gets shrunk down to bug size and learned to ride a butterfly but waving his arms over its eyes to steer it. Pretty cool to my imagination at the time. They're about a typical boy genius type who gets to go on science fictional advantures.
posted by Space Coyote at 10:17 AM on September 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

Roald Dahl's "James and the Giant Peach" has the bugs you seek. Adventure rather than mystery, but the reading level is appropriate and the bugs are terrific.
posted by MonkeyToes at 10:20 AM on September 10, 2013 [5 favorites]

Space Coyote, I just came here to mention that Danny Dunn book. At least it might be the same one. Either you are thinking of a different one or you have the details a little off.

In the one I am thinking of, Danny Dunn - Invisible Boy Danny uses the professor's virtual reality unit to pilot an insect-sized robot dragonfly, and how he has to destroy it to keep the technology out of the hands of the NSA who would surely use it to spy on people! 1974!

It was pretty mindbending when I read it in the late '70s, and I've just Amazoned a copy to read now and see how it holds up.
posted by dirtdirt at 10:26 AM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

The Secret Series are the first books my 10 year old son willingly read. An interesting mystery with fantastic writing that really draws a kid in. My son read these in the car, in the hallways at school and in the cafeteria during lunch.
posted by hollygoheavy at 10:28 AM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

10 years old is a good age to get into the Animorphs series, as mentioned above. Many of the books feature turning into bugs! The series is science-fiction-y and can be a little violent though and gets grim towards the very end when it goes full blown war-is-shitty mode, but it's a very long series so he could easily be the age to handle that when he gets there.
posted by internet!Hannah at 10:29 AM on September 10, 2013

One of my most fondly remembered children's books is The City Under the Back Steps. A young fellow is transformed to ant-sized, and he and his cousin live with the ants for a time. Such fun! And I learned a some ant facts that I remember to this day.
posted by thebrokedown at 10:34 AM on September 10, 2013

How about Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett? No bugs, but a fun mystery with 2 smart kids as the main characters.
posted by stampsgal at 10:35 AM on September 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

Mad Scientists' Club is adventurous, science-y and sometimes mystery-focused a la Encyclopedia Brown.
posted by cog_nate at 10:39 AM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Another great mystery for kids: From The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.
posted by jquinby at 10:42 AM on September 10, 2013 [6 favorites]

Trouble in Bugland: A Collection of Inspector Mantis Mysteries. It's the book where reading on my own first clicked for me.

I can't recall if I first started reading it in conjunction with having the original Sherlock Holmes read aloud to me or not, but it may benefit from that. It's based primarily on Sherlock Holmes and has a lot of other Victorian references.
posted by tychotesla at 10:43 AM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Masterpiece, by Elise Broach, is a fictional mystery starring an anthropomorphic bug and an 11-year-old boy. Badaboom.

Also speaking of bugs, there's the excellent classic The Cricket in Times Square.
posted by the_blizz at 10:50 AM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

OH! OH! Give him "The Phantom Tollbooth"!!!!!!!!! There is a talking insect and everything! God I love that book.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 11:02 AM on September 10, 2013 [6 favorites]

Vermeer and the Secret Series were going to be my recommendations. I love the Phantom Tollbooth, but I wouldn't give it to him until he already loves reading :)
posted by dpx.mfx at 11:12 AM on September 10, 2013

I think I was 12 or 13 rather than 10 when I read The Bug Wars, but it's probably still a good one. I also liked Mad Scientist's Club mentioned above, (much more than Encyclopedia Brown.)
posted by anonymisc at 11:20 AM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

duh... almost forgot this classic: Freddy the Detective. Not bugs, but animals.
posted by edgeways at 11:21 AM on September 10, 2013

I don't recall it being a mystery, but if your kid is into tales of anthropomorphic bugs, I think he'd like Shoebag. It's basically Kafka's Metamorphosis except for kids and not depressing. I recall liking it a lot when I was a kid.
posted by phunniemee at 11:29 AM on September 10, 2013

Not a mystery, but the Cricket in Times Square is a classic of anthropomorphized bug.
posted by fingersandtoes at 11:33 AM on September 10, 2013

Jean Craighead George, of My Side of the Mountain fame wrote a series of ecological mysteries including Who Really Killed Cock Robin? and The Firebug Connection. The bugs aren't anthropomorphic but there are bugs and there are mysteries. I remembering learning a lot from The Firebug Connection as a kid.
posted by Polyhymnia at 12:50 PM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Bruce Hale's Chet Gecko books are a fun series aimed smack dab at your son's age group, complete with wisecracking fourth grade lizard detective silliness and anthropomorphic goodness.
posted by redsparkler at 1:25 PM on September 10, 2013

The Great Brain Books.
posted by jazh at 1:27 PM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet series! Vintage like Hardy Boys, but adventure with light (kitsch) sci fi. Boy builds a working rocket and makes repeated visits to the mushroom planet to help save it.

Beverly Cleary also wrote several 'boy' books... Motorcycle Ralph? The librarian will know.

I also liked The Mysterious Benedict Society...they've come out in the last five years or so.
posted by jrobin276 at 2:13 PM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

The Three Investigators. They were dated when I read them 25 years ago, but goddamn did I want to be a kid detective who worked out of a junkyard and had his own chauffeur. (and who hung around with Alfred Hitchcock for, uh, reasons)
posted by robocop is bleeding at 2:54 PM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

In non-bug mystery books Diana Wynne Jones' books are great. Maybe start with one of the Chrestomanci books or Howl's Moving Castle. I first read them around that age and they really stuck with me.

It's possible I'm re-reading the Chrestomanci books right now. And not for the first time. I mean it's possible.
posted by grapesaresour at 3:19 PM on September 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

I've heard good things about the Basil of Baker Street books. I was also a big fan of Bellairs growing up, but for me it was all diminishing returns after his Lewis Barnavelt books. The House with a Clock in its Walls and The Figure in the Shadows are the freakin' bomb.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 5:16 PM on September 10, 2013

Maybe the Eerie, Indiana series (based on the kid's TV show that was before my time). Writing is probably on par with Goosebumps, but at least it's a whole series for him to go through.

And what about A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket?
posted by book 'em dano at 5:18 PM on September 10, 2013

I came here to recommend The Westing Game and Chet Gecko, which have been recommended already. So ... is he familiar with The 39 Clues?
posted by johnofjack at 6:52 PM on September 10, 2013

Mystery + Bug = The Gold Bug by E.A. Poe.

(it's kinda complex if you're young, but it's something to think about.)
posted by ovvl at 9:40 PM on September 10, 2013

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