14 Best Mystery Picture Books (That Develop Thinking Skills)

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Did you know that mystery picture books help children develop thinking skills? It’s almost impossible to read these mysteries without thinking deeply about the clues, making (and refining) predictions, and using deductive reasoning. Plus, reading the mystery genre in a picture book sets the stage for loving mysteries later on with chapter books.

These picture book choices will make great choices for a mystery genre study at home or in the classroom. Download a free printable list here.

Find my list of the best mystery chapter books for older readers here.

The Best Mystery Picture Books (That Develop Thinking Skills)

Alphabet Mystery
by Audrey Wood
The lower case letters must find the missing “x” while thwarting the villainous capital letter “M” in this introduction to the mystery genre. My kids begged to read this picture book over and over again. (It’s also on: Favorite Alphabet Books for Kids.)

I Lost My Sock! A Matching Mystery
by P.J. Roberts, illustrated by Elio
Help Fox and Ox find Fox’s missing sock. Fox tries to describe his sock exactly — it’s blue, it has dots, big dots. Ox gets carried away looking for the sock. Help the friends sort and match in this fun, light-hearted story about patterns, shapes, comparing & contrasting, and object identification. I bet you’ll never guess where Fox finds his sock!


Pigeon P.I.
by Meg McLaren
What a unique and delightful mystery story! A little canary asks Pigeon P.I. (private investigator) to help her find her missing friends. Then the canary goes missing, too. It’s up to Pigeon to solve the missing bird’s mystery. The author writes in the style of the old detective shows– punchy with short sentences. The illustrator captures the details, giving kids clues to notice as they read.


It’s both hilarious and impressive to read a mystery adventure written in alliterative sentences. Betty has enlisted the help of the police to solve the crime of who burgled her bakery. And you’ll never believe who did it!! Sure to be a new read-aloud favorite.

The Deductive Detective
by Brian Rock, illustrated by Sherry Rogers
This entertaining picture book incorporates math with the mystery genre. Detective Duck needs to use his deductive reasoning to figure out which of the twelve animal bakers stole the cake from the cake contest. He follows the clues, subtracting each suspect as he rules them out. Until only one animal is left! Can you use your thinking skills to figure it out before Detective Duck?


7 Ate 9: The Untold Story
by Tara Lazar, illustrated by Ross MacDonald
6 bangs on Private I’s door for help to escape 7 because of the rumor that 7 ate 9. YIKES! But what really happened to 9? Pitch perfect tongue-in-cheek number and word humor will crack you up throughout this suspenseful, funny story.


Secret Agent Splat!
by Rob Scotton
Someone is stealing a duck from Spat’s collection each night and returning it the next day missing a beak. My daughter JJ adores Spat so we were thrilled with this exciting mystery story.


Fractions In Disguise: A Math Adventure
by Edward Einhorn, illustrated by David Clark
George Cornelius Factor (a fraction collector) bids on a new fraction — 5/9. Suddenly, the room goes dark and the fraction is stolen. Now George must find it. Luckily, he invents a Reducer gun to help him remove any fraction disguises. I never imagined fractions starring in a mystery adventure story but here it is! Not only is this entertaining, but it’s also educational, too.


The Case of the Missing Cake (Not an Alphabet Book)
by Eoin McLaughlin, illustrated by Marc Boutavant
Use the clues in the illustrations to help Bear find who ate the cake! It’s pretty obvious but funny, all the same and a unique twist on the alphabet book.


Officer Panda Fingerprint Detective
by Ashley Crowley
Officer Panda can’t figure out the strange prints he sees in the landscape around his town —  and in his home!!! Then he realizes… it’s you, the reader! 🙂


Inspector Brunswick: The Case of the Missing Eyebrow
by Angela Keoghan, illustrated by Chris Lam Sam
At the art museum, Inspector Brunswick discovers that the Admiral’s portrait is missing an eyebrow! With help from his assistant, Nelson, they search the museum. And to their surprise, discover the culprit — and it isn’t who they’d ever expected. It’s a bit silly but a decent introduction to the mystery genre.


by Graeme Base
Bertie needs to find the missing magic show props that have disappeared from his grandpa’s retirement home. Each performer tells him what’s missing. You can help find the items in the illustrations while Bertie finds the culprit. Like all his books, Base excels in his detailed illustrations.

The Fabulous Lost and Found and the Little Mouse Who Spoke Spanish
by Mark Pallis, illustrated by Peter Brynton
I love this fun book written in Spanish and English SO much — it’s not a translated book but a mix of both languages. A little mouse arrives to look for something missing which he explains to Mr. and Mrs. Frogs in his language of Spanish. But, Mr. and Mrs. Frog only speak English! The Frogs show the mouse one thing after another in a delightful exchange of language and cooperation. After a lot of searching, a quick cup of tea together, and more pantomiming, they find the mouse’s lost yellow hat. Use the context clues to learn the words of the language that you don’t speak.

The Great Pie Robbery and Other Mysteries
by Richard Scarry
Sam Cat and Dudley Pig are detectives. In this picture book of mystery stories, the pair search for clues, catch robbers and entertain readers like you. Put on your thinking cap because these will get you laughing and deducing.

Sleuth and Solve: 20+ Mind-Twisting Mysteries
by Victor Escandell
As a teacher, I used these kinds of mind-bending puzzles in my classroom frequently. Why? Because the solutions take out-of-the-box thinking. Which is SO GOOD FOR KIDS! I love the design and format of this book… Pen and ink illustrations accompany a short mystery puzzle. Kids will love the challenge of trying to figure out the solutions– then getting to check to see if they got it right by lifting the flap.


Feast of Peas
by Kashmira Sheth, illustrated by Jeffrey Ebbeler
Who is stealing Jiva’s peas? Every time Jiva goes to his garden to pick his plump, sweet peas (which he sings about,) they’re all missing. He tries to protect the crop with a fence and then a scarecrow but neither strategy helps. Finally, Jiva deduces who the culprit is and gets a happy ending with a punishment that fits the crime.

14 best mystery picture books

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    Hi! I’m Melissa Taylor, mom, writer, & former elementary teacher & literacy trainer. I love sharing good books & fun learning resources.

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