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Tween

8 Middle Grade Mysteries for Fans of The Westing Game

by Keith Rice

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I love mysteries and while it’s easy to think that I always have, I can tell you precisely when it started. As a 10-year-old devotee of R.L. Stine’s particular brand of age-appropriate horror, I was more than a little skeptical when the school librarian handed me a copy of The Westing Game and insisted that I give it a chance. Clearly, she knew something about 11-year-old me that I did not and I am forever grateful that she did.

What I discovered in those Newbery Medal-winning pages was an extraordinarily clever and wonderfully hilarious mystery revolving around the 16 potential heirs to reclusive millionaire’s fortune. What made the story so special, though, was that it made me feel like I was in the running for Sam Westing’s $200 million inheritance. That is the magic of The Westing Game, it’s as much a puzzle as it is a mystery — a word-twisting, delightfully labyrinthine puzzle that Ellen Raskin slyly asks you to solve right alongside Turtle, Judge Ford, and all the rest. The clues are all there for the taking from the very first line, but you have to work to figure them out, just like the characters themselves.

The Westing Game is one of those truly brilliant novels that sticks with you and carries you into a lifetime of avid reading. As we approach the 40th anniversary of this beloved classic, there’s no better time to introduce your middle grade reader to The Westing Game and all the humor, suspense, and intrigue Ellen Raskin has to offer. And once they have solved Sam Westing’s puzzle, they should keep that budding love of mystery going with these eight read-alike options.

  • The Tattooed Potato and Other Clues

    by Ellen Raskin

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    Sadly, The Westing Game was Ellen Raskin’s final novel before her death in 1984. While it was arguably her best work, she penned three other excellent middle grade mysteries. My personal favorite of those is The Tattooed Potato and Other Clues. With an eclectic cast and Raskin’s trademark wordplay and clever riddles, this tale of a painter’s assistant caught up in a series of mysteries is perfect for young fans of The Westing Game.

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

    by E.L. Konigsburg

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    Like The Westing Game, From The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler is a Newbery Medal-winning classic that has entranced young readers for decades. It follows precocious 12-year-old Claudia Kincaid and her brother, Jamie, who run away from home and take up residence in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The pair are quickly caught up in the mystery of an angel statue that may or may not be the work of Michelangelo.

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  • Nancy Drew: The Secret of the Old Clock

    by Carolyn Keene

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    The adventures of amateur sleuth Nancy Drew have been engaging middle grade readers for over 80 years and this is where it all started. The Secret of the Old Clock was the first Nancy Drew Mystery and it remains one of the best. Here, Nancy sets out to help the struggling relatives of the late Josiah Crowley before his full inheritance is stolen by the devious Topham family.

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  • Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library

    by Chris Grabenstein

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    Mix a bit of Roald Dahl and a little of Ellen Raskin and you’d get Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library. This ingenious, twisting puzzle of a novel sees the board game-obsessed Kyle Keeley taking on the biggest game of his life as he attempts to escape the state-of-the-art library of master game designer, Mr. Lemoncello.

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  • Holes

    by Louis Sachar

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    This Newbery Medal and National Book Award winner is a modern classic. It follows the tribulations of young Stanley Yelnats who is unjustly sent to a detention center for boys and forced to dig holes five feet wide and five feet deep day in and day out. Stanley soon discovers that there’s more than meets the eye at Camp Green Lake and it might have something to with the curse that has plagued his family for generations.

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  • Hoot

    by Carl Hiaasen

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    While Carl Hiaasen might be best known for his outrageous Floridian crime novels, he’s also a bestselling children’s author. With Hoot, Hiaasen brings his rollicking, laugh-out-loud sensibilities to the story of Roy Eberhardt, an awkward new kid who tries to save a colony of endangered owls in the delightfully eccentric Florida town of Coconut Grove.

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  • Three Times Lucky

    by Sheila Turnage

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    This Newbery Honor book is the first of the Mo & Dale Mysteries. It centers on sixth grader Moses (“Mo”) LoBeau and the town of Tupelo Landing, North Carolina. When a mysterious lawman arrives in Tupelo Landing with questions about a murder, Mo and her best friend Dale set out to solve the mystery and hopefully save the only family Mo has ever known.

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  • Click Here to Start

    by Denis Markel

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    This wonderfully inventive mystery is part Ready Player One, part From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and a dose of The Westing Game. Twelve-year-old Ted Garson is shocked to learn that his great uncle has died and left him a cluttered, junk-filled apartment. He’s even more surprised when he discovers his great uncle has transformed the place into a real-life, clue-filled escape room with a potential fortune waiting at the end. It will take every bit of Ted’s video-game fueled knowledge to crack this mystery.

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What books would you recommend to young fans of The Westing Game? Let us know in the comments section below!