The Westing Game

By Ellen Raskin,

Book cover of The Westing Game

Book description

A Newbery Medal Winner

"A supersharp mystery...confoundingly clever, and very funny." —Booklist, starred review

 

A bizarre chain of events begins when sixteen unlikely people gather for the reading of Samuel W. Westing’s will. And though no one knows why the eccentric, game-loving millionaire has chosen a virtual stranger—and a possible…

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Why read it?

11 authors picked The Westing Game as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

One of my favorite characters in this middle-grade mystery has always been Chris Theodorakis, the teen boy with an unnamed neurological condition that confines him to a wheelchair and, for the most part, to his house.

Even if he can’t leave home—and even if people often look away from him when he does—Chris plays a key role in solving the mystery at the heart of the book by being a keen observer of everything that passes in front of his window. I love how this novel depicts Chris’s inner world to young readers, including his awareness of how his condition…

From Kate's list on ill or disabled sleuths.

It’s a clever mystery, so clever it keeps you jumping out of your seat. We listened to it together as an audiobook, and he kept exclaiming “Ah!” and squirming in delight with all its complexities.

This is a one-of-a-kind book that’s been intriguing kids for generations. Best for ages 10+

I probably wouldn’t even know that I liked mystery novels, much less grow up to write them, if I hadn’t curled up with The Westing Game in my parent’s attic at the start of the summer of my 8th-grade year. 

Borrowing from so many wonderful detective traditions which came before, Raskin pits a series of teams against each other to discover which one of them is a murderer. The prize? Sam Westing’s two hundred-million-dollar inheritance.  

Unlike the adults on the rest of this list, Raskin’s teenage sleuths are not in over their heads. They’re loyal, crafty, and much smarter than…

I know half of you clicked on my list just to see if The Westing Game was on it. If we’re looking for cozy-nerdy-mathy classics, it’s hard to outdo Ellen Raskin’s masterpiece.

I know she wrote it for youngish adults, but let’s be honest—I re-read this book at least once a year, finding new layers of meaning in sentences I memorized in sixth grade. If you like music, lyrics, puzzles, and personal finance, The Westing Game is a great place to start no matter how old you are.

One of these days I’ll come up with a chess game…

The oldest book on my list, The Westing Game is a classic murder-mystery puzzle set just outside of the author’s hometown of Milwaukee. The story centers around the mysterious and eccentric Westing, who is found dead in his mansion. His will challenges sixteen locals to determine who caused his death to inherit his fortune. The contrast between the enticing Sunset Towers, where the characters stay, and the vacant and eerie Westing Estate next door provides a unique setting for this classic midwestern whodunnit.

AKA a book I wish I’d have written; then again, it was a groundbreaker.

I’ve almost never (since childhood) read a book more than once. I’ve read this three times and partially because it’s, perhaps, the first book that also reads like a puzzle. I was smitten as I followed the various characters—potential heirs to Sam Westing’s fortune, who must work in assigned pairs, each using the unique clue given to them—to solve the mystery of his death. I was so close to figuring it out the first time and needed to read it a second time to see where…

A children’s mystery book classic and winner of the 1978 Newbery medal, The Westing Game is the only murder mystery I'm recommending. When the newly-moved-in tenants of the Westing Estate are invited to a will reading, they are read Samuel W. Westing’s obituary and invited to play a game to discover the murder’s culprit. With an outrageous cast of characters and layers of puzzles, The Westing Game is the perfect mystery book for puzzle lovers. 

The quintessential mystery from my childhood that ignited my love for riddles and sent my imagination flying. With its creepy old house, a worm-filled corpse, an apartment filled with eccentric characters, and a plucky, inquisitive protagonist named Turtle, this book is the gold standard for middle grade mystery. It’s the kind of story that makes a kid feel like their voice and perspective is needed in a world filled with not-always-discerning adults. It also has one of the best riddles of all time that to this day still makes me smile whenever I hear a certain patriotic song.

This is one of my favorite mysteries of all time. It set the model for me in writing my own mystery. I love that it is, in fact, solvable by the reader if you’re observant enough to pick up the clues and clever enough to put them together. The best part, though, is that despite this being a murder mystery, the characters are likeable and relatable. At its heart it’s about people trying to be happy and finding ways to thrive, and coming together to help each other be better versions of themselves. This is a great mystery, yes, but…

Apartment buildings are surprisingly rare in kidlit, and this “glittery, glassy apartment house” on the Lake Michigan shore is one-of-a-kind, filled with the kind of eccentric characters only Raskin can create. (The Westing House referred to in the title is pretty interesting, too, but as a kid who grew up in an ordinary house, I found the apartment building far more interesting!) This perennially popular puzzle book is like a three-dimensional game of Clue, only with a lot more surprises. The first page alone holds so many irresistible contradictions that I defy anyone to stop reading.

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