Middle Grade/Early YA Mysteries
November 6, 2017 1:55 PM   Subscribe

My niece is turning 11 at the end of this month. She is very smart and a voracious reader. The last time we talked, she told me mysteries were her favorite.

She's read a lot of my old favorites - Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, etc. I've given her The Westing Game and A Wrinkle in Time already.

I'd really like to give her something written in more modern times, but I'm not familiar with middle grade literature that's come out since I myself was in the middle grades (mid-1980s).

posted by something something to Media & Arts (22 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Possibly relevant previous question.
posted by blob at 1:58 PM on November 6, 2017

Book Scavenger and its sequel are tremendously fun page-turners, and they're about a book-loving young girl, so your niece might relate.
posted by yankeefog at 2:19 PM on November 6, 2017

The Murder Most Unladylike series by Robin Stevens. Modern children's detective series, set in the 1930s.
posted by paduasoy at 2:28 PM on November 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

I came here to suggest the Robin Stevens ones! The Kate Milford Greenglass House books are also great.
posted by leesh at 2:51 PM on November 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

My kid loved (loves) the Ruby Redfort series--girl protagonist who is recruited to participate in a top secret spy organization. Written by a British author, so not super well known in the US, which makes it a good gift/find in my estimation because kids here are less likely to have read it/seen it at their library.
posted by msbubbaclees at 2:51 PM on November 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

Kate Milford - Greenglass House series (#1)
Michael Buckley - The Sisters Grimm series (#1, The Fairy-tale Detectives)
Blue Balliet - Chasing Vermeer series (#1)
Lemony Snicket - A Series of Unfortunate Events (#1, The Bad Beginning)
Trenton Lee Stewart - The Mysterious Benedict Society series (#1)
posted by ClingClang at 2:54 PM on November 6, 2017

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
This Goodreads list has a ton.
posted by soelo at 3:05 PM on November 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

The House With a Clock in its Walls by John Bellairs (published in 1973, set in the 1948.) It might earn you a little bit of cool Aunt cred since there's a film adaptation of it coming out next fall. (And better for her to read it first, because as much as I like Jack Black I have serious reservations about him being cast as Jonathan Barnavelt.)
posted by Funeral march of an old jawbone at 3:19 PM on November 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

Oh, and I haven't read them lately so I'm not sure how well the older ones have aged in terms of sexism/racism (the protagonists are all boys and the earliest books were written in the 1960s), but I always liked The Three Investigators better than the Hardy Boys. They had a bad-ass secret headquarters hidden in a junkyard.
posted by Funeral march of an old jawbone at 3:23 PM on November 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

She might be old enough for Agatha Christie. Lots of murders, but otherwise age appropriate.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 4:25 PM on November 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

That Goodreads list has a lot of books my now 12-year-old daughter has enjoyed, in particular:

The Shadow Cipher
The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place (one of her all-time favorites)
Lantern Sam and the Blue Streak Bandits
Secrets of Shakespeare's Grave
Under the Egg
The Case of the Missing Moonstone
Capture the Flag (and sequels)

She also loved the Robin Stevens books mentioned above as well as Greenglass House.
posted by mogget at 4:25 PM on November 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

I really love the Enola Holmes mysteries by Nancy Springer- they’re the best mysteries in my elementary school library. Enola is Sherlock’s much younger sister. Sherlock and his brother are both insufferable asses- Enola must battle their sexism (and that of Victorian-era London) at every turn in her quest to find out why her mother has disappeared. WARNING prostitution is mentioned near p. one of the first book.
posted by carterk at 4:32 PM on November 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

Not sure if they count as mysteries, but The Great Brain series is fantastic.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 5:51 PM on November 6, 2017

See if she can has a Nintendo console that can play the Ace Attorney games (the first one is Phoenix Wright, Ace Attorney). They're visual novels - basically digital Choose-Your-Own-Adventure novels - so there's just as much reading as in a paper book.
posted by waffleriot at 8:17 PM on November 6, 2017

My daughter has really enjoyed the Wollstonecraft Detective Agency series.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 8:24 PM on November 6, 2017

Margi Preus has a new mystery series--2 books so far--Enchantment Lake & The Clue in the Trees. https://www.upress.umn.edu/@@search?SearchableText=Preus
posted by Nosey Mrs. Rat at 9:02 PM on November 6, 2017

The other Lemony Snicket series, All the Wrong Questions, is probably even a better fit. It's a deadpan and at times hilarious riff on film noir-style narrative with quite a lot of moral complexity and a largely pre-teen cast of characters.
posted by sesquipedalia at 7:22 AM on November 7, 2017

Shakespeare's Secret by Elise Broach
posted by soelo at 7:34 AM on November 7, 2017

I started loving mysteries in middle school. My "YA" favorites were The Westing Game and From The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler, but I moved pretty fast into Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes. The genre of mystery often referred to as "golden age cozies" such as Agatha Christie are usually fairly suitable for this age: it might be mentioned that someone had a scandalous affair but you won't actually "see" anything more than a kiss. You'll read that someone got stabbed but the description is usually not gory. There may be swearing but it's generally pretty PG by today's standards. Note that with the books written in the early 20th century you may find period-typical attitudes regarding gender roles and race, but this can provide teaching moments about societal change and values.
posted by oblique red at 9:42 AM on November 7, 2017

Ally Carter writes more about aspiring spies than detectives, but they are mysteries, and I think they'd be right up her alley.
posted by PearlRose at 11:52 AM on November 7, 2017

Time at the Top is great for a kid that age, of you can find it. It was out of print for a while but they did put a new edition out in the last few years.
posted by guster4lovers at 3:51 PM on November 7, 2017

I read the first PK Pinkerton mystery and it was excellent. The author (Caroline Lawrence) has written a ton of other mysteries, too, so if your niece likes that one, she'll have a whole bunch of other books to look forward to.

Mystery Writers of America gives out an Edgar Award each year for Best Juvenile Mystery Fiction, which in practice seems to mean Middle Grade. Here's the list of winners.
posted by yankeefog at 7:14 AM on November 10, 2017

« Older Help me properly describe my father's position in...   |   Don't they all have that? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.