It’s easy to assume that I’ve always been a fan of mysteries, but I can tell you exactly when it began. R.L. Stine is known for his age-appropriate horror novels, so when the school librarian handed me The Westing Game and insisted that I give it a try, I was skeptical at first. She clearly knew something about my 11-year-old self that I didn’t, and I’m eternally grateful for it.
This Newbery Medal-winning mystery revolved around a group of 16 heirs to a reclusive millionaire’s fortune, and I found it to be both clever and delightfully funny. One thing that really stood out about this story was the way it made me feel as though Sam Westing’s $200 million estate was in my hands. Ellen Raskin subtly asks you to solve the puzzle alongside Turtle, Judge Ford, and the rest of the cast in her word-twisting, delightfully labyrinthine mystery that is The Westing Game. Everything you need to know is right there in the first line, but you have to put in the effort to decipher it, just like the characters do.
You will want to keep reading The Westing Game for the rest of your life because it is one of those rare, brilliant works of literature. This is the perfect time to introduce The Westing Game and all the humor, suspense, and intrigue Ellen Raskin has to offer to your middle grade reader as we approach the book’s 40th anniversary. This list of eight read-alikes is a great way to keep their interest in mysteries alive after solving Sam Westing’s puzzle.
The Tattooed Potato and Other Clues by Ellen Raskin
The Westing Game, Ellen Raskin’s final novel, was published in 1984, the year of her death. Despite the fact that this was her best work, she also penned three other superb middle grade thrillers. The Tattooed Potato and Other Clues is my personal favorite. Featuring a diverse cast and Raskin’s trademark wordplay and clever riddles, this tale of an assistant painter caught in a series of mysteries is ideal for fans of The Westing Game.
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
Newbery Medal-winning classics like The Westing Game and From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler have captivated children for decades. Claudia Kincaid, 12, and her brother Jamie, 11, flee their home and take up residence in New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, where the story unfolds. Their investigation into a Michelangelo-made angel statue quickly turns into a trap for them.
Nancy Drew: The Secret of the Old Clock by Carolyn Keene
Nancy Drew’s mysteries have captivated middle-schoolers for more than 80 years, and this is where it all began. The first Nancy Drew Mystery, The Secret of the Old Clock, is still one of the best. Nancy is on a mission to save the family of Josiah Crowley from the greedy Tophams, who plan to steal his entire fortune.
Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein
Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library is a cross between Roald Dahl and Ellen Raskin. Kyle Keeley, a board game fanatic, takes on the biggest challenge of his life as he tries to escape the state-of-the-art library of Mr. Lemoncello, a master game designer.
Holes by Louis Sachar
Newbery and the National Book Award winner is a modern classic. The story revolves around Stanley Yelnats, a young man who is wrongfully imprisoned in a juvenile detention facility where he is compelled to dig holes five feet wide and five feet deep all day long. Stanley soon learns that there is more to Camp Green Lake than meets the eye, and that this could have something to do with the curse that has befallen his family for generations.
Hoot by Carl Hiaasen
In addition to his outrageous crime novels, Carl Hiaasen is a best-selling children’s author. Hoot, Hiaasen’s latest novel, tells the story of Roy Eberhardt, a newcomer to Coconut Grove, Florida, who tries to save a colony of endangered owls from extinction.
Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage
The Mo & Dale Mysteries series begins with this Newbery Honor book. Sixth grader Moses “Mo” LoBeau and his North Carolina town of Tupelo Landing are the focus of the story. Mo and her best friend Dale set out to solve a murder mystery and save the only family Mo has ever known when a mysterious lawman arrives in Tupelo Landing.
Click Here to Start by Denis Markel
Ready Player One, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and even a little The Westing Game are all incorporated into this brilliantly original mystery. His great uncle has died and left him a squalid, trash-strewn apartment. Ted Garson, 12, is shocked. Discovering his great uncle has transformed the place into a real-life clue-filled escape room with a possible fortune at the end is even more surprising to him. To solve this mystery, Ted will need all of his video-game knowledge.
Bleak Harbor (Bleak Harbor #1) by Bryan Gruley
They’ve lost their son. They blame themselves in their hearts.
Bleak Harbor’s Dragonfly Festival, tourists, and overpriced restaurants are all a part of summertime. On the eve of a frantic and anticipated town celebration, Danny Peters, the youngest member of a five-generational family, vanishes.
Upon receiving a photo of Danny’s mother and stepfather tying their autistic and socially repressed son to a chair, they are terrified. However, there’s more to the story than meets the eye. It appears that they are receiving ominous texts and emails from an unknown source, containing private and confidential information. Could Danny’s kidnapping be linked to the secrets they’ve kept hidden, even from each other?
In order to save their son, Carey and Pete are forced to confront their own demons as the kidnapper presses them harder and harder.
The Bad Seed by William March
Classic thriller by William March from 1954 is back and better than ever in this new reissue. New P.S. features include author interviews, insights, features, recommended reading, and more in this paperback reissue.
What happens when a child serial killer is born into a normal family? In William March’s classic thriller, this is the central question. Upon its initial release in 1954, the book went on to sell over a million copies and was adapted into a hit Broadway show and a successful Warner Brothers film. One of the most chilling stories ever told was Rhoda Penmark, the little girl who became the inspiration for generations of creepy kids. A masterwork of suspense, The Bad Seed is still as frightening, intelligent, and timely today as ever.