If there’s one thing I get asked for constantly in the bookstore it’s mysteries for MG readers. Grandparents have warm memories of The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew and they want something just as fun for their grandchildren. A satisfying mystery is hard to write though so, I’m thrilled when I find any MG mystery to recommend. I’m especially happy to have found these mysteries with a cast of diverse characters.
Ikenga by Nnedi Okorafor
This one is set in contemporary Nigeria follows Nnamdi, the son of a murdered police chief as he searches for the people responsible for his father’s death. It has a supernatural element based in Nigerian mythology which served the story well without making it seem cartoonish. What a terrific way to introduce young writers to a writer with such strong body of work for adults. It goes on sale Aug 18th.
The Gemini Mysteries by Kat Shepherd
Twin Black detectives Evie and Zach Mamuya are seventh grade sleuths who along with their friends, affable Vishal and wealthy Sophia, solve crimes, inspired in part by their single mom, a crime reporter in an unspecified American city. Each chapter has an illustration at the end which contains clues to the mystery. The first book in the series The North Star is already in paperback and the next, The Cat’s Paw, will go on sale in December or January.
Kudo Kids: The Mystery of the masked medalist by Maia & Alex Shibutani with Michelle Schusterman
Here’s another pair of sibling detectives, 11 and 12 year old Mika and Andy who travel to the Summer Olympics in Tokyo with their parents, one a sports writer and the other a food critic. The puzzle loving Kudos are keen to play a Pokemon Go type game which has them finding clues and learning about Japanese culture all over town. Their game leads to a deeper mystery. The book is illustrated and if the authors names sound familiar its because they are Olympic bronze medalists in Ice Dancing. This book, on sale last May, was obviously meant to coincide with the postponed Tokyo Olympics, but it’s a quick and fun read, even in a non-olympic year.
Muse Squad The Cassandra Curse by Chantel Acevedo
Here’s a mystery that will appeal to fans of Rick Riorden. Cuban American girl Clio discovers she’s actually a muse, a legacy in her family handed down from the ancient Greeks to the present. Her mission is to inspire others who will go on to do great things for humanity. I liked the concept and the core of the story which holds inspiration as a superpower. So refreshing. This one is not illustrated and it’s a bit longer than the other books I’ve reviewed here. The Cassandra Curse came out in July and a second title will follow.
Goldie Vance The Hotel Whodunit by Lilliam Rivera
Also featuring a Cuban American main character, this book is a novelization of a comic book, it’s set in Florida of the 1950s and features 16 year old Goldie Vance who dreams of becoming a hotel detective in a family immersed in the hospitality industry. When a movie shoot comes to her family’s hotel and jewels go missing, Goldie’s mother is suspect number one. This one is a little more leisurely in pace than the others but it evokes an era well and portrays Florida vacation culture with warmth and wit. There is a graphic novel insert in full color but it was not in the ARC that I reviewed.
ATTY At Law by Tim Lockette
And finally here’s a book that celebrates speaking up for those without a voice. It features multi-racial family in the contemporary south and is a legal thriller in the vain of the Theodore Boone series by Grisham, but with considerably more heart. Our advocate Atticus Peale who goes by Atty is an animal lover and uses the law to save a shelter dog. She then tries to advocate for a considerably less sympathetic animal and her efforts intersect with her father’s. He is an attorney defending an illiterate man facing a murder charges.
If you have a favorite mystery, either a stand alone or a series. please mention it in the comments.
Rosanne Parry is the author of 7 MG novels including best sellers A Wolf Called Wander, and A Whale of the Wild. Her first picture book Big Truck Day will go on sale in September of 2022. She sells books at Annie Blooms Bookstore in Multnomah Village and writes books in her treehouse in Portland, Oregon.
From the Mixed-Up Files is the group blog of middle-grade authors celebrating books for middle-grade readers. For anyone with a passion for children’s literature—teachers, librarians, parents, kids, writers, industry professionals— we offer regularly updated book lists organized by unique categories, author interviews, market news, and a behind-the-scenes look at the making of a children's book from writing to publishing to promoting.
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