The best middle grade mysteries for kids who love riddles and puzzles

The Books I Picked & Why

The Westing Game

By Ellen Raskin

The Westing Game

Why this book?

The Westing Game is a riddle-solving mystery book that I used to read with my middle school students when I taught reading to a combined fifth and sixth-grade class. They loved trying to solve the pieces of this puzzle along with the characters. In this classic mystery book, sixteen people, who all live in the same apartment building, attend the reading of Samuel W. Westing’s will. They are shocked to learn that one of them is actually Westing’s murderer. They are paired up and given a set of clues. The heir to Westing’s fortune will be the one to discover the murderer. 


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The Mysterious Benedict Society

By Trenton Lee Stewart, Carson Ellis

The Mysterious Benedict Society

Why this book?

I had the pleasure of meeting the author Trenton Lee Stewart when he came to visit one of the schools I used to teach at. He read a portion of the first book in The Mysterious Benedict Society series, and I knew right away this was a book my students and I would enjoy. The main character is an orphan named Reynie, whose tutor shows him an ad in the paper looking for “gifted children.” At his tutor’s prompting, Reynie decides to apply for this program. After passing a very peculiar “entrance exam,” Reynie is inducted into the Mysterious Benedict Society, where he and other very bright children must solve a series of riddles and puzzles in order to thwart a mad scientist with evil intentions.


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Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library

By Chris Grabenstein

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library

Why this book?

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library was recommended to me by a bookstore employee who knew I had a love for riddles and middle-grade books. This is definitely a book for anyone who loves children’s literature and solving puzzles. The main character Kyle loves playing board games designed by his hero Luigi Lemoncello. When Mr. Lemoncello designs a new library in Kyle’s town, a special contest is held to celebrate the library’s grand opening. Kyle wins a spot in this “lock-in” contest where twelve students are locked into the library at night. The winner must solve a series of riddles (all based on books and libraries) in order to escape from the library.


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When You Reach Me

By Rebecca Stead

When You Reach Me

Why this book?

Without spoiling anything, let’s just say that there’s a surprise twist in this book that completely caught me off guard—and, as a mystery writer myself, I usually catch onto these things so it’s hard to surprise me! The story seems pretty ordinary at first. Miranda is a sixth-grader in the 1970s, and her mom is slated to be a contestant on a game show. While Miranda helps her mom prep for her appearance, mysterious notes that seem to predict the future start appearing. To make matters worse, her best friend dumps her, and her hidden apartment key is stolen. Miranda must solve the mystery behind these notes in order to avoid impending doom.


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Chasing Vermeer

By Blue Balliett, Brett Helquist

Chasing Vermeer

Why this book?

This story takes place in my hometown of Chicago near the campus of the University of Chicago, and I’ve taken my own sixth-grade students on a field trip to a museum located right on this campus. Chasing Vermeer is about two sixth graders, Petra and Calder, who join forces when a painting by the artist Vermeer disappears. They have to solve a number of mathematical puzzles and connect a series of rather random events to see if they can uncover an international art scandal.


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