Do you love detectives and mysteries? This popular genre is somewhat rare to find in the picture book format, but there are some hidden gems if you are willing to search for them. Luckily, you won’t need to do any further investigating, as I have compiled a list of my favorite mystery-themed picture books. These hilarious, bizarre mysteries are sure to make your kids lifelong fans of the genre!
Where Are My Books? by Debbie Ridpath Ohi
Spencer's favorite book, Night-Night, Narwhal, goes missing. He is ready to make do with some of his other books, but when they also go missing one by one, he realizes there is a thief afoot! Spencer sets up a clever trap to catch the bandit. Finally, he will find out the identities of the book thieves! Kids will relate to the disappointment of beloved books going missing. They will also love the cute bandits at the end!
Little Fox and the Missing Moon by Ekaterina Trukhan
Little Fox loves detective stories and would love to solve his own mystery. One night, he looks out the window and discovers the moon is missing! With his other critter friends, Little Fox must solve the mystery of the missing moon and find a way to put the moon back in place. I love this cute fox and the beautiful illustrations. Trukhan has also written another Little Fox mystery, Apples For Little Fox.
Undercover Ostrich by Joe Kulka
What are those sneaky ostriches up to? This book explores the many skills an undercover ostrich possesses. Children will be laughing aloud at these big, silly birds and random situations. Kulka's narrative voice is hilarious!
Shark Detective by Jessica Olien
An adorable shark dreams of being an important detective, until one day when he decides to make his dreams a reality. A kitty goes missing, so he must train himself to be the best investigator possible. Along his way, he finds the kitty, who happens to have a mystery of her own for the shark to solve. This brightly-colored book is hilarious, easy to read, and perfect for storytimes!
Whobert Whover: Owl Detective by Jason Gallaher
One day, Whobert Whover, Owl Detective, discovers his friend, Perry the Possum, lying awfully still. Could it be...is he dead?! Whobert sets out to question every suspicious looking animal in the vicinity, only to find that he may have jumped to conclusions. I really enjoyed the plot of this story (it's a great way to teach that possums play dead).
Pigeon P.I. by Meg McLaren
Pigeon P.I. doesn’t take cases anymore, after all, his partner skipped town a long time ago. When a chick begs him to help find her missing friends, he decides to make an exception. After some investigating, he finds the chick’s missing friends, along with an underground feather ring. But who is running it? The humor and characters in this story are excellent. There are also lots of small details in the background to look at, making this an excellent book to spend time with in a one-on-one session or with a small group.
Agent Lion by David Soman & Jacky Davis
Agent Lion is a bumbling, jelly-donut obsessed detective. When Ms. Flamingo’s cat, Fluffy, goes missing, he is on the case, though he doesn’t seem to do a very good job. Disappointed and having lost her patience, Ms. Flamingo calls off the search, inviting Agent Lion back to her house, only to discover that Fluffy was there all along. This book is full of silly humor and fun illustrations to analyze. It is a bit on the long side for a storytime, so you may wish to divide it into two or more sections so kids don’t get too wiggly.
The Berenstain Bears and the Missing Honey by Stan & Jan Berenstain
When Papa bear discovers that his honey is missing, he sets the whole family out on a hunt. The thief left three clues behind: some fur, some wax, and a bit of checkered cloth. The bear family runs all around town with their trusty sniffer dog, Snuff, making messes and causing chaos. In the end, they discover the thief is closer to home than they had imagined. I loved the rhyme and humor in this classic storybook.
Betty's Burgled Bakery by Travis Nichols
Do you love alliteration as much as I do? Then you will love this silly graphic-style story full of fun characters! Betty wakes to find her bakery has been burgled! She calls the dispatcher, who sends out the Gumshoe Zoo to find out who stole the purloined pastries! This is one of my all-time favorites. There is a lot to look at, so I think this book/early graphic will be great for reading one-on-one or with a small group.
Officer Panda: Fingerprint Detective by Ashley Crowley
This simple story follows Officer Panda on his patrol. When he leaves his home, he discovers strange fingerprints everywhere and begins to question citizens. At the end of the day, he is shocked to find them in his own house and concludes that only one person can be responsible. Kids will love finding the fingerprints on each page. This is also a great way to introduce young ones to fingerprinting.
Mitzi Tulane: Preschool Detective in The Secret Ingredient by Lauren McLaughlin
At the time I am writing this, there are actually two books in this series, including this one and “What’s That Smell?” In this story, Mitzi is enjoying a chocolate muffin, when her friend, Max, informs her that his mother sometimes hides vegetables in his food. Shocked by this information, Mitzi breaks the muffin apart and takes her evidence to her neighbor’s “lab” for investigation. This silly story is full of fun characters and some technical terms in the field of forensics, so it may be a good one to read to slightly older kids before doing a forensics-based science lesson.