Books like Encyclopedia Brown for kids?
December 20, 2007 10:12 AM   Subscribe

Are there any other books like the Encyclopedia Brown series?

My sister's kid loves Encyclopedia Brown. Are there any other books about child detectives, or books where kids use logic/Sherlock Holmes skills to solve crimes?

Wikipedia tells me about Einstein Anderson, and Hawkeye Collins/Amy Adams. I know about Emil and the Detectives. I'm not looking for books that are general mysteries (Agatha Christie etc).

Please note I'm specifically looking for books about child detectives, and not for general recommendations for kids' books. Got enough of them! Thanks! And, yes, I know he can read Agatha Christie/Sherlock Holmes at any age, and have suggested them to him.
posted by long haired lover from liverpool to Society & Culture (39 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
I used to read The Three Investigators.
posted by moonmilk at 10:14 AM on December 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

The closest things that I can remember from my childhood are the books of Robert M. Quackenbush. They aren't about kids as much as anthropomorphized young animals. Most are out of print, and your nephew might be too old for them, but your library probably has some Miss Mallard books that you can check out.
posted by billtron at 10:20 AM on December 20, 2007

Cam Jansen.

Boxcar Children Mysteries.

And yes, the Bobbsey Twins.
posted by artifarce at 10:20 AM on December 20, 2007

Seconding The Three Investigators. Jupiter Jones was my hero!
posted by philad at 10:22 AM on December 20, 2007

I used to love The Secret Seven.
posted by dontoine at 10:24 AM on December 20, 2007

Definitely The Three Investigators. I used to like The Hardy Boys and the Tom Swift series as well.
posted by metric space at 10:28 AM on December 20, 2007

It took me about 5 minutes to remember the name of the author, but I read a ton of books by John Bellairs. There are a few different series, most of which center on a 'meek boy' confronting a mystery of some sort, sometimes a villain thrown in for good measure. Any book in a series can be read alone without missing any part of a larger story line - it's basically just the same character(s) that is used across the series. Some series also include a touch of supernatural or 'spooky' elements to them as well.

FWIW, I read these in early Junior High.. not sure how old the kid is but if they're reading Encyclopedia Brown these are along the same reading level.
posted by MarkLark at 10:29 AM on December 20, 2007

The McGurk mysteries of E.W. Hildick.
posted by Wolfdog at 10:29 AM on December 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

Blue Balliett wrote GREAT kids' mystery books: The Wright 3 and Chasing Vermeer (and it looks like another one will be out in May, The Calder Game). My 10-year old started reading them when he was 8 and he just loved them.

Along the same lines, but more science fictiony/fantasy are the Artemis Fowl books. He's a genius billionaire kid who finds out there is a fairy world and in each book has to figure out some sort of mystery. They're not high literature by any means but I liked how Artemis starts out as a pretty bad kid and then completely redeems himself and his nature by being exposed to fundamentally good people/creatures.
posted by cooker girl at 10:29 AM on December 20, 2007

Two Minute Mysteries are short and fun.
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 10:33 AM on December 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

The Black Hand Gang books are fun.
posted by Pollomacho at 10:48 AM on December 20, 2007

Oooh, I loved the Black Hand Gang!
posted by nkknkk at 10:51 AM on December 20, 2007

The Great Brain Series
posted by nedpwolf at 10:59 AM on December 20, 2007 [4 favorites]

The T*A*C*K series. Not all of the stories are mystery-mysteries, but they all use deduction and logic to solve problems. They also have the "answer when you turn the page" feature, like Encyclopedia Brown, so you can come up with a solution on your own.
posted by anaelith at 11:02 AM on December 20, 2007

Oh! Oh! Oh! You can't miss The Thinking Machine stories. Gold.
posted by nedpwolf at 11:02 AM on December 20, 2007

Eh, on review, the Thinking Machine stories aren't about kids, but they are most definitely for kids.
posted by nedpwolf at 11:12 AM on December 20, 2007

I loved Enid Blyton's Famous Five, but I'm not sure how well they'd go over today.
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:13 AM on December 20, 2007

Eric Wilson writes a series of mysteries with Tom and Liz Austen. They're short novels aimed at pre-teens, and I remember them as being quite engaging.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:19 AM on December 20, 2007

The Something Queer at the X mysteries are mostly out of print, but they were a lot of fun as a youngling.
"Gwen tapped her braces..."
posted by ormondsacker at 11:19 AM on December 20, 2007

nthing The Three Investigators.
posted by PFL at 11:21 AM on December 20, 2007

Enid Blyton's "The (blank) of Adventure series. Hooray for midcentury British Upper Middle Class worldview!
posted by Chuckles McLaughy du Haha, the depressed clown at 11:27 AM on December 20, 2007

seconding the Great Brain.
posted by unknowncommand at 11:33 AM on December 20, 2007

Am I out of line suggesting Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys?

posted by legotech at 11:47 AM on December 20, 2007

For younger readers, the Nate the Great books are really good. I also second the Cam Jansen suggestion.
posted by greenmagnet at 11:47 AM on December 20, 2007

The Danny Dunn series, which had a more scientific bent. Might be out of print, though.
posted by madmethods at 11:48 AM on December 20, 2007

Nancy Drew, the Boxcar Children?
posted by thebrokenmuse at 12:12 PM on December 20, 2007

Definitely The Three Investigators. Also Alvin's Secret Code and the Brains Benton series.
posted by marginaliana at 12:17 PM on December 20, 2007

Books by E.L. Konigsburg are mysteries of a sort, they also have a historical fiction slant to them. Wonderful! My personal favorites were A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver and From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.
posted by eralclare at 12:24 PM on December 20, 2007

This is bringing back a lot of memories!

Definitely The Three Investigators, which I always preferred to the Hardy Boys. I also enjoyed the McGurk books, and Cam Jansen too (which, until a few weeks ago when it came up at pub trivia night, I was sure was something only I had read). As a Canadian kid, Eric Wilson's mysteries were pretty much canon for me, too.

I also LOVED the John Bellairs books, and I have many fond memories of curling up with their creepy stories and wizards and artifacts, and also the amazing John Bellairs illustrations. I don't think they are so much whodunnits, but they're excellent, especially the ones with Professor Childermass and Johnny Dixon (whose name I might be totally misremembering).

I also used to read a series called "You Be the Jury!" It was basically the same structure as Encyclopedia Brown, in that the reader was presented with the facts, and then you had to figure out if the person was guilty or innocence, and flip back to the end to find out why.
posted by synecdoche at 12:25 PM on December 20, 2007

Thirding the Great Brain series. I read them as a child and I have read them multiple times to my kids who now read them on their own. I was also an Encyclopedia Brown fan.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 1:10 PM on December 20, 2007

Jigsaw Jones was one of my daughter's favorites.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 1:31 PM on December 20, 2007

I quite enjoyed The Happy Hollisters as a young'un.
posted by namewithoutwords at 2:57 PM on December 20, 2007

Nthing many of the above. Lots of them were my constant companions during childhood (in fact, I read so many of them that I could tell when the author was using the same mystery in both Encyclopedia Brown and Two-Minute Mysteries. I thought I was very clever, heh.)

Because the users above have named all of my favorites, I thought I'd throw in some extra recs. These aren't young detective series, but a kid who loves those will probably really dig these.

The Eleventh Hour by Graeme Base. Pretty mystery story with codes, puzzles and ciphers woven into the gorgeous illustrations.

The Young Detective's Handbook is essential. I'm impressed it's still available!

As I recall there was a Klutz book about pranks and jokes...but it really gave me lots of ideas that fit in with the general solving thing. It taught me how to shimmy up a doorframe and suggested mailing shoes and tennis balls and the like to friends. (Other favorites were Exploratorium, the string games one, the magic one, etc...)
posted by lhall at 3:09 PM on December 20, 2007

Er, that's actually supposed to be "Explorabook".
posted by lhall at 3:14 PM on December 20, 2007

As general books for kids to read you can't go wrong with any of the recommendations above. But they don't all fit what you specifically asked for. I think your best bets are:

Brains Benton series - two kid detectives, one the brain/Holmes/Scientist, one the action/leg/Archie Goodwin type. Fantastic stories. Benton is a few years older than Encyclopedia.

The Three Investigators - Jupiter Jones, the lead investigator, is very similar to Brains Benton. Jupiter is again older than Encyclopedia.

The Westing Game, by Ellen Raskin. Possibly the best young adult mystery, featuring a young detective, ever written, and has exactly the kind of puzzle fun the Encyclopedia Brown fan loves, for a slightly older reading level. It's a one-off. Her other books are also good, but not in the same league as this must-read book.

I think From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler is a bit different from what you're looking for, but is almost as good as The Westing Game and you could keep it in mind.

A more recent book, Down the Rabbit Hole by Peter Abrahams, is a new classic about a thirteen year old girl who wants to emulate Holmes and solves a mystery using his methods.

Regarding some of the rest of the recommendations:

The McGurk books are quite good and are about a child detective agency. More Private Eye style than the Encyclopedia books. Note that two of these are actually fantasies and may not be what you want: The Case of the Dragon in Distress and The Case of the Weeping Witch.

The Great Brain - great, truly great, stories but not mostly about solving mysteries. Probably will fit the bill because the pleasure you get from the Great Brain's ingenuity is the same as the puzzle solving in Encyclopedia Brown.

Two-minute mysteries - exact same style of mystery challenges as Encyclopedia, and only at a slightly higher reading level, but no child detective.

Jigsaw Jones - very similar to Encyclopedia, but for a younger reading level.

Nate the Great - very similar to Encyclopedia, but for a slightly younger reading level.

Hardy Boys, Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew, Dana Girls. Happy Hollisters - All feature child/teenage investigators, and all good, but don't feature much in the way of Holmesian logic. The Dana Girls probably are the closest to being logical and puzzly-fun. No reason for a young boy not to read them - they're not particularly gender specific, any more than the rest of these are.

The Secret Seven and Famous Five mysteries by Enid Blyton are also wonderful, and a bit more interesting with respect to friendships and interrelating with people than the Hardy/Drew/Bobbsey crowd, but again are not really strong on logic.

The Blue Balliet books are very well-written and entertaining, but in fact do not feature much logic and Chasing Vermeer is almost anti-logic and encourages some paranormal beliefs. (Good though)

The Henry Reed books are good but are more about adventures and again not so much on the mystery solving.

posted by lockedroomguy at 5:22 PM on December 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

After this question, I was just getting out some of my JMys stuff out for a re-read, and the tag on the back cover of one of the T*A*C*K books actually said "Move over Encyclopedia Brown..." Made me laugh a bit. Googling for that also turns up "Doyle and Fossey Science Detectives" and "Fletcher Moon"... I haven't read either of those, but you might give them a shot.
posted by anaelith at 5:37 PM on December 20, 2007

Seconding Ellen Raskin's mysteries, especially The Westing Game. It's really wonderful and still one of my all-time favorites.
posted by lemuria at 8:08 PM on December 20, 2007

I highly recommend the two novels in M. T. Anderson's Thrilling Tales series, Whales On Stilts and The Clue of the Linoleum Lederhosen. (The third one, Jasper Dash And The Flame-Pits Of Delaware, comes out in August.)
posted by Ian A.T. at 9:53 PM on December 20, 2007

Another series that is apparently out of print is ESP McGee. The titular character isn't actually psychic; he's just so smart that people think he must be. Great series and exactly what you're looking for. Nthing Three Investigators, though they might seem a bit dated now.
posted by waraw at 12:43 PM on December 21, 2007

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