18 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)

Dakota Crumb and the Secret Bookshop by Jamie Michalak, illustrated by Kelly Murphy
Dakota’s cousin asks her to find a rare book. Dakota starts with a clue and finds one clue after another — will you be able to spot the answers along with our brave detective mouse? Eventually, the treasure hunt leads her to a surprise birthday party! Look back through the book to find the objects located on the last pages, making this an interactive adventure two times through. Brilliant!

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.

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. Help sort and match socks in this fun, light-hearted story about patterns, shapes, comparing & contrasting, and object identification.


Pigeon P.I.
by Meg McLaren
In this delightful mystery story, a little canary asks Pigeon P.I. to help her find her missing friends right before she goes missing, too. The author writes in the style of the old detective shows– punchy with short sentences– and the illustrations give kids important clues.
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 the culprit is left…


Mister Kitty is Lost! by Greg Pizzoli
Help the little girl and her dog search for the missing kitty. The girl shares clues with numbers and colors and you get a peek through in the cutouts. For example, “Mister Kitty has two green eyes. Do you see two green eyes?” When you turn the page — it’s two green crocodiles. When she counts down to one, she finds Mister Kitty. (Who is actually a big lion.)

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

Time Flies Down to the Last Minute
by Tara Lazar, illustrated by Ross MacDonald
Punny, hilarious, and playful, it’s up to Private I to solve the latest mystery in Capital City — who is stealing the watches and clocks! When all the timepieces are totally gone, Private I thinks of the last timekeeper that no one can steal — the sundial. And that’s precisely where he catches the culprit!

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.

Sherlock Chick and the Giant Egg Mystery
by Robert Quackenbush
Sherlock Chick and his farm animal friends look for clues about a mysterious gigantic egg. Will you guess it along with Sherlock Chick before it hatches? A fun, playful mystery.


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– just before it’s stolen. Now George must find it. Luckily, he invents a Reducer gun to help him remove any fractions in disguise. Entertaining and educational.


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 deduce who ate the cake! It’s obvious but funny with a playful 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.


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 is looking 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.

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
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 a scarecrow but neither helps. Finally, Jiva deduces who the culprit is and gets a happy ending with a punishment that fits the crime.

Who Is It Whoodini?
by Roman Yasiejko, illustrated by Gustavo Ramos
Owls, Cahoots, and Whoodini need to solve the mystery of what kind of bird crashed into the tree. Follow along and see if you can solve the mystery using the clues that they discover. But they’ll learn that the answer is NOT a bird at all–can you figure it out?

14 best mystery picture books

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