Elementary 7 Mystery Stories that Keep Kids Guessing

teacher smiling at a student during a lesson

Your elementary students will strengthen their reading comprehension and inference skills with a gripping, mystery short story from CommonLit’s free online reading program.

Mystery stories are often whodunits, but the key element to any good, page-turning mystery is suspense. Whether the main character is searching for clues, solving puzzles, or looking to explain a strange event, our texts will have your students hanging on to the edge of their seats to find out what happens. Turn your elementary students into the next batch of buzzing detectives and adventurers with these 7 mystery texts!

Calady’s Quest” by Teresa Batement (3rd Grade)

In this fantasy story, a young girl named Calady must find her two missing brothers who have disappeared. They have ventured on a quest to find the most valuable item in the land to be named the next king. On her journey, she uncovers hints to solve problems and save her family.

Mysteries can sometimes be scary and dangerous. During your reading lesson, discuss with your class how Calady displays courage after watching “Have Courage and Be Fearless” under the Related Media tab. Then, have students share why courage is necessary to take risks and find solutions.

related media tab for calady's quest

The Guitar Pig Mystery” by Pamela Love (3rd Grade)

In this funny text, two cousins, Daniel and Evelyn, realize there is a silly misunderstanding during their search throughout their house for a lucky pig. They tirelessly hunt for the elusive “pig,” only to realize that they should have been looking for a pick to give Aunt Kim so that she can play her guitar.  

After reading, use Discussion Question 1: “How do Daniel and Evelyn help each other in the story? Do you think Daniel could have solved this problem without Evelyn’s help? Why or why not?” Have students share their own experiences of working together to get something done to explore the theme of teamwork in your ELA curriculum.

Ribburta and the Mighty Mysterious Squirrel Affair” by Joan Lennon (3rd Grade)

In this fiction story, a frog named Ribburta and a squirrel named Redd must solve a peculiar problem after a new fortune teller moves next door. Ribburta and Redd work together to uncover their neighbor’s evil plan.

Solving a mystery can have positive impacts on others. Break your class into small groups to answer Discussion Question 4: “How do Ribburta and Redd help their community? What are some ways that you help your community? Why do you think helping others is important?”

screenshot of a commonlit text

Finding Prince Deming” by Clare Mishica (3rd Grade)

In this short text, two similar men claim to be Prince Deming, the next heir of King Bo’s land. Unable to distinguish the next in line for the throne, King Bo enlists the help of his adviser Hartwig who uses smart tricks to unveil the truth.

Prepare students for rigorous grade-level reading assessments by having them use their annotations to answer Assessment Question 6: “How does Hartwig find the real Prince Deming?” Then, students can share their reflections on what makes Hartwig a successful problem solver.

Letters from Leo” by Sheila Kelly Welch (4th Grade)

In this heartwarming story, Leo and his Granny uncover clues in letters written by Granny’s older brother. Through teamwork, they solve a word puzzle to unlock a handmade box that has been sealed shut for over 70 years.

Students can use their imagination to answer Discussion Question 3, “If you had a mystery box, what would you lock in it? Why? What would someone have to do to unlock it?” This question is a fun way for students to think about how they would create their own mystery, an expressive activity to incorporate into your writing curriculum.

The Mystery of Mary Celeste” by Meg Moss (4th Grade)

In this informational text, Meg Moss proposes theories behind the disappearance of the seven people aboard the Mary Celeste ship that was bound for Italy. The reason as to where the crew went is still unknown today with no evidence of struggle or danger.

Some mysteries are never solved. But curiosity never stops! Pair this text with “Don’t Fear the Bermuda Triangle” under the Paired Texts tab to keep your students guessing. After reading, students can compare the explanations offered for both mysteries.

paired texts for the mystery of mary celeste

Rumpelstiltskin” by The Brothers Grimm (5th Grade)

In this short fairytale, a girl is imprisoned by a king who believes she can turn straw into gold. To save herself from a lifetime of captivity, she makes a deal with a magical creature in exchange for her first child. In order to keep her baby, she must figure out a riddle and reveal the creature’s name.

Mysteries are engaging because of the tricks that antagonists play on the main characters to maintain power. Have students answer Discussion Question 5: “How does power influence the way people act?” Then, explore how Rumpelstiltskin’s motive drives the suspenseful plot.

Next Steps

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