Who doesn’t love a good mystery novel? A mix of suspense, intrigue, surprises, and skilled protagonists using their brains to solve thrilling problems often proves irresistible to readers of all ages.
What’s exciting about the mystery genre today is that there’s no shortage of new and recent children’s books with young female detectives winning rave reviews. The books — which are generally geared for older grade-schoolers, tweens, and teens — are giving Nancy Drew a run for her money!
Why, you might ask, is it important for us to have more young female detectives joining the Sherlocks and Watsons of the literary world? I think author Kate Hannigan, one of the writers behind the new generation of girl detective books, explains it best.
“Books featuring girl detectives put female characters at the center of the action, where they’re the ones being clever and courageous, rather than sitting on the sidelines watching the boys have all the fun,” she told me. “… As middle-graders on the threshold of adolescence, girl readers need to see themselves as being the ones to ask important questions, use their brains for solving problems, and ultimately save the day.”
Such books are great reads for boys too, she added. Not only is it important for boys to see girls as problem-solvers, but these well-reviewed stories should also prove entertaining to both sexes.
“There’s a crazy misconception with children’s literature that girls will read boy books, but boys won’t read books about girls,” Hannigan said. “But I think we underestimate kids’ natural curiosity when we make assumptions like that. Young readers are hungry for a good story, simple as that.”
Check out some quick takes on Hannigan’s forthcoming book and six others below:
The Case of the Missing Moonstone, by Jordan Stratford, illustrated by Kelly Murphy
What would happen if Ada Lovelace, the world’s first computer programmer, and Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, were childhood friends? According to this imaginative novel, they’d form a secret detective agency. Duh! Come for the action-packed mystery, stay for the smart use of STEM concepts.
The Detective’s Assistant, by Kate Hannigan (out April 7)
What does an 11-year-old orphan do when she’s taken in by her detective aunt? She joins in her daring feats tracking down thieves and murderers, of course. Set in 1859, the story is inspired by Kate Warne, the first real-life female detective in the U.S. … and it might just make you wish you had an adventurous, trail-blazing aunt in your life, too!
Murder Is Bad Manners, A Wells & Wong Mystery, by Robin Stevens (out April 21)
At a fancy English boarding school in 1934, two eighth grade girls with very different backgrounds team up to solve a murder mystery. You had me at “fancy English boarding school.”
The Ruby Redfort Series, by Lauren Child
In this four-book series, undercover agent Ruby Redfort is a genius at cracking codes and can wield some impressive gadgets. She’s also, by the way, 13. Can she foil crimes and survive having embarrassing parents? Those are equally difficult challenges in my opinion, and worth learning more about!
The Wig in the Window, by Kristen Kittscher
When a pair of seventh-grade best friends decide to spy on their neighbors, they get more than they bargain for. Their school counselor is hiding something and figuring out what that is will test the girls’ friendship. A perfect story for anyone who likes some all-too-relatable BFF drama with her nail-biting mysteries.
The Wilma Tenderfoot Series, by Emma Kennedy
A humorous four-book series about 10-year-old apprentice detective Wilma, her talented Beagle, and a famous sleuth who takes her under his wing. The second book of the series finds Wilma enrolled in an academy for “Detection and Espionage.” Take that, Hogwarts.
Wonder at the Edge of the World, by Nicole Helget (out April 14)
Set not long before the Civil War, a scientifically-minded young girl named Hallelujah Wonder and an enslaved boy named Eustace work to protect a mysterious shrunken head that Hallelujah’s late explorer father brought back from an expedition. “Mysterious shrunken head?” I’m sold.More On