The kids are back to school and that means one thing—their bookshelves are left unguarded.
I don’t have any kids myself, but I have a penchant for middle-grade books left over from my own childhood. From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsberg? Forget it. I was never the same after I read that book. From Beverly Cleary to Judy Blume to Lois Duncan, the books that are meant for young readers have things they teach us—like how to spend a last lazy summer afternoon recapturing the enjoyment of reading.
As a mystery writer, what I really love are kid mysteries. I began to wonder… what are the great mysteries for young readers set in Chicago? I solicited some opinions from literary/library friends and got a treasure trove. Special thanks to Susanna Calkins, Hope Baugh, Karen Steinberger, Mike Hominick, and Keir Graff (all adults) for the recommendations.
Quick, get your hands on these books before the kids get home.
by Blue Balliett, illustrated by Brett Helquist
Art, puzzles, and full-on nerd-dom set at the laboratory school on the campus of the University of Chicago. Middle grade.
The Westing Game
by Ellen Raskin
One last game for a dead man? Sixteen unlikely people gather for the reading of a will; one of them might be a killer. Middle grade.
The Sixty-Eight Rooms
by Marianne Malone, illustrated by Greg Call
Ever wanted to shrink to the size of the Thorne miniature rooms at the Art Institute of Chicago and just walk around, solving crimes? Middle grade.
Isabel Feeney, Star Reporter
by Beth Fantaskey
A spunky young newspaper seller in 1920s Chicago makes news when she investigates a murder. Middle grade.
The Detective’s Assistant
by Kate Hannigan
The first woman Pinkerton detective, Kate Warne (real) takes on an orphaned niece (fiction), who turns out to be a crime-solving asset. Middle grade.
On the Day I Died: Stories from the Grave
by Candace Fleming
Ten ghost stories set in White Cemetery, a real cemetery in Barrington, Illinois—based in part on the ghost stories of Chicago. Young adult, tween.
What did we miss? Suggest your favorite Chicago-set mysteries for young readers in the comments!
Lori Rader-Day is the Edgar® Award-nominated (and multi-award-winning) author of The Death of Us, Death at Greenway, The Lucky One, Under a Dark Sky, and others. She lives in Chicago, where she co-chairs the mystery readers' event Midwest Mystery Conference and teaches creative writing for Northwestern University's School of Professional Studies.