Growing Reader

Mystery-Solving Siblings:
5 Action-Packed Books for Kids

by Tom Burns

Photo credit: Andrew Rich, Vetta/Getty Images

This year sees the release of Danger in the Darkest Hour, the first-ever “Super Edition” from Mary Pope Osborne’s wildly popular Magic Tree House series. This expanded “super” chapter book features even more of the unstoppable brother-and-sister time-traveling team of Jack and Annie, this time solving a mystery in World War II-era Normandy.

Any parent can tell you that siblings working together toward a common goal are a force to be reckoned with (and occasionally feared), which might explain why there are so many amazing children’s books about brothers and sisters joining forces to solve a mystery. If you’re a fan of Jack and Annie, here are five other “super” titles that feature some of our favorite sibling sleuths.

  • From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

    by E.L. Konigsburg

    While not featuring anything as dramatic as time travel or war, this beloved novel (and Newbery Medal winner) features one of the smartest (and best) sibling teams of all time. Twelve-year-old Claudia Kincaid runs away from home, taking her thrifty younger brother Jamie with her, and together they secretly set up camp inside New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. Soon, they find themselves trying to uncover the mystery behind the origins of a new statue, alleged to have been sculpted by Michelangelo. A true classic that should delight fans of Brian Selznick’s similarly themed Wonderstruck.

  • A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning

    by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist

    The first chapter of this darkly hilarious thirteen-volume series introduces us to the Baudelaire children – Violet, Klaus, and Sunny – three of the unluckiest kids ever. After their parents mysteriously die, the Baudelaires are sent to live with their sinister uncle, Count Olaf, who is determined to obtain their inherited fortune by any means possible. Watching the siblings constantly trump Olaf’s schemes and deduce more about what happened to their parents is tremendously satisfying, thanks largely to Snicket’s flair for wordplay.

  • The Hardy Boys: The Tower Treasure

    by Franklin W. Dixon

    Yes, Dixon is a pseudonym and brothers Frank and Joe Hardy might seem a little square by today’s standards, but the Hardy Boys have endured as icons in the children’s mystery genre because, like the Nancy Drew or Happy Hollisters series, they consistently present kids with engaging, escapist mysteries that are legitimately exciting, even if the details are a bit dated.

  • The Fairy-Tale Detectives: The Sisters Grimm

    by Michael Buckley, illustrated by Peter Ferguson

    Orphaned sisters, Sabrina and Daphne Grimm, are sent to live with their mysterious grandmother in upstate New York, where they discover that fairy tale characters are real (going by the name “Everafters”) and that it’s the Grimm family legacy to protect the human race from magical monsters. Buckley cleverly spins fairy tale tropes into a web of mystery surrounding the fate of Sabrina and Daphne’s parents and the sinister Scarlet Hand organization. Think Philip Marlowe meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but, you know . . . for kids!

  • The Maze of Bones: The 39 Clues

    by Rick Riordan

    This popular adventure series, written by a host of different authors, is an elementary school book fair staple, which isn’t surprising because what school-aged kid wouldn’t want to travel the world trying to crack the greatest mystery of all time? The first chapter, written by Percy Jackson’s Rick Riordan, introduces us to Amy and Dan Cahill, two young siblings who set off on an international quest to uncover the secret history behind the most powerful family in the world. This is blockbuster brother-and-sister mystery solving and it’s a whole lot of fun.

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