History Mysteries
American Girl series books


The children's book series History Mysteries by American Girl is one of the best children's historical fiction series available. Below are our favorite books in the series. These books are largely for children in 3rd grade, 4th grade, and 5th grade. [Note: Some books were published under Mysteries Through Time.]



Interest Level:  Gr. 3-5 
Grade Equivalent:  5.2
Lexile Measure:  670L

The Smuggler's Treasure  
by
Sarah Masters Buckey

* War of 1812 *  This swiftly paced, light novel takes readers to Louisiana during the War of 1812. When Elisabet's widower father is captured by the British, the 11-year-old must leave her pampered life in Boston to live in New Orleans with her aunt and uncle. She struggles with this new life but soon adapts and even discovers a way to pay her father's ransom. Buckey conveys a credible sense of time and place and gives details on the political scene as well as the cultural and social climate of French-influenced New Orleans (PW).

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Interest Level: Gr. 3-5 
Grade Equivalent:  5.1
Lexile Measure: 710L
DRA Level:  60
Guided Reading: W

The Night Flyers  
by
Elizabeth McDavid Jones

* World War 1 * 

A fast paced History Mysteries set during WW1. Twelve- year-old Pam and her father raise homing pigeons on the North Carolina coast. But the year is 1918 and Pam's father is a soldier in World War I, far away in Europe. When a stranger with a foreign accent moves into town, people suspect he's a spy. Pam becomes suspicious when the stranger offers to buy her pigeons and, after she refuses to sell, the birds start disappearing.

Truthfully, we haven't had a change to read this one yet. If you have, did you like it?

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Interest Level: Gr. 3-5 
Grade Equivalent:  5.3
Lexile Measure: 740L
DRA Level:  40
Guided Reading: R

Secrets on 26th Street  
by Elizabeth McDavid Jones

*Suffrage + 1914 NYC * 

Susan's sure that their new boarder is hiding some- thing, so when her mother goes missing, Susan demands answers. Turns out, the women are part of the suffragette movement and her mother has been arrested during a demonstration.

Building suspense, "strong female characters, and a cohesive plot" will keep readers engaged, and in the process they will learn a great deal about the life in New York City of 1914 and the suffragette movement.

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Interest Level: Gr. 3-5 
Grade Equivalent:  4.9
DRA Level:  38
Lexile Measure: 580L
Guided Reading: P

Under Copp's Hill  
by
Katherine Ayres

* early 20th century immigrant life *

In 1908, Boston's North End is home to Italian and Jewish immigrants jammed into tenement housing. Innie, 11, lives in just such a place. She and her cousin, join a local settlement house, which teaches immigrants skills for American life. When items start disappearing and a light is seen in the basement, Innie and her friends wonder if the house is haunted or if a thief is at work.

Historical details are intriguing and, like all History Mysteries, a historical snapshot is included. Brings history alive through lively, appealing characters. -SLJ


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Interest Level: Gr. 3-5 
Grade Equivalent:  4.4
DRA Level:  40
Lexile Measure: 740L
Guided Reading: S

Shadows in the Glasshouse  
by Megan McDonald

* Jamestown / Colonial America *

Set in 1621, this book begins in London, where 12-year-old Merry is kidnapped, sent on a treacherous voyage to the New World, then sold into indentured servitude to a master glassblower in Jamestown. When someone starts to sabotage the operation, Merry is determined to find out who is responsible.

Full of period details, it's a great book for required reading lists during units on life in colonial America.


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Interest Level: Gr. 3-5 
Grade Equivalent:  5.1
DRA Level:  40
Lexile Measure: 620L
Guided Reading: S

Enemy in the Fort  
by
Sarah Masters Buckey

* frontier life *

When most of her family is kidnapped by Abenaki Indians, Rebecca and her sister seek shelter at a fort. When a white boy raised by Abenakis arrives to live at the fort too, Rebecca is distrustful and angry at him, blaming him for the thefts taking place.

Set on the 18th century New Hampshire frontier, this title "provides both a glimpse at social history and a powerful message about prejudice." (Booklist)


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Interest Level: Gr. 3-5 
Grade Equivalent:  5.1
DRA Level:  40
Lexile Measure: 490L
Guided Reading: S

Circle of Fire  
by Evelyn Coleman

* 1950s South -- Racial Tension *

Jeffrey, a white boy, and Mendy, an African- American girl are best friends until one summer Jeffrey's parents forbid him from playing with Mendy. Ethnic tensions in the area are high, but Mendy is excited that Eleanor Roosevelt is coming to speak in her town...until she and Jeffrey uncover a Klan plot to bomb the event.

This book is based on an actual planned bombing by the Klu Klux KLan that was uncovered by the FBI.


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Interest Level: Gr. 3-5 
Grade Equivalent:  5.1
DRA Level:  40
Lexile Measure: 680L
Guided Reading: S

Whistler in the Dark  
by
Kathleen Ernst

* Gold Rush (Colorado) *

Emma and her mom have just moved to a Colorado gold rush town so her mom can start a newspaper. They are not warmly welcomed, however, and it becomes clear that someone doesn't want them there--doesn't want the newspaper to prosper. Can Emma find out who is trying to scare them away? Full of historical details and a quick read that works well on required reading lists for Gold Rush units.


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Interest Level: Gr. 3-5 
Grade Equivalent:  5.1
DRA Level:  40
Lexile Measure: 700L
Guided Reading: S

Mystery at Chilkoot Pass  
by
Barbara Steiner

* Gold Rush (Klondike) *

Hetty, her father and her uncle are off to make their fortunes in the Klondike Gold Rush, but family mementos start to disappear as they travel through the Chilkoot Pass. The items aren't valuable, so it's a mystery why someone would want them. The trip is punishing, and problems plague them throughout their journey.

Full of historical details. Booklist promises that this is "a satisfying, action-filled story."


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Interest Level: Gr. 3-5 
Grade Equivalent:  5.5
DRA Level:  40
Lexile Measure: 720L
Guided Reading: S

Hoofbeats of Danger  
by
Holly Hughes

* Pony Express *

An action packed historical mystery set at a Nebraska territory Pony Express Station. Eleven year old Annie, daughter of the stationmaster, suspects her favorite pony has been poisoned, so she sets out to solve the mystery--with the help of one of the Pony Express riders Bill Cody and her native American friend Redbird.

Click here to see the extra end section that's full of historical details for kids. We definitely recommend this book. We loved it. :)


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Interest Level: Grade 3-5 
Grade Equivalent:  4.9
Lexile Measure:  520L

Voices at Whisper Bend  
by
Katherine Ayers

* WW2 Homefront *

Living in Pennsylvania in 1942, Charlotte wants to do her part for the war effort. She comes up with the idea of collecting scrap metal, but is soon dismayed to discover the metal has been stolen from the school's basement. Her determination to find the thief leads her to face not only the culprit, but also a fear that has haunted her.

This book provides a kid-friendly window into the war effort at home during World War II.

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Interest Level: Grade 3-5 
Grade Equivalent:  5.3
Lexile Measure:  730L

Watcher in the Piney Woods  
by
Elizabeth McDavid Jones

* American Civil War *

The Civil War has brought hard times to the Willis family in Virginia, but nothing could prepare them for the death of brother Jacob in battle. While grieving in the nearby woods, 12-year-old Cassie is terrorized by a crazed Confederate deserter, escaping only because of her dog's courage. A search indicates the man has left, but soon things begin to go missing.

The puzzle is worked out in an entertaining plot and, as with all History Mysteries, an appended historical view of 1865 gives an appealing glimpse at a pivotal year in US history. (School Library Journal)


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Interest Level: Grade 3-5 
Grade Equivalent:  5.2
Lexile Measure:  740L

The Minstrel's Melody 
by
Eleanore Tate

minstrel shows & 19th c African Amer. life

Orphelia, 12, longs to sing, so when Madame Meritta arrives in their rural African-American community looking for new talent for her traveling minstrel show, Orphelia sees her big chance. When her mother forbids her from auditioning, she runs away with the troupe and confronts the realities of life on the road, the hard work behind the glamour, and racism. She also discovers a secret about her family's past that may explain her mother's reticence to indulge her musical talent. Historical elements are woven almost seamlessly into the narrative. (School Library Journal)


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Interest Level: Grade 3-5 
Grade Equivalent:  5.4
Lexile Measure:  800L

Riddle of the Prairie Bride  
by
Kathryn Reiss

* frontier prairie life *

Ida is excited by the arrival her father's mail-order bride and when Caroline arrives, she's good tempered, a good cook, and a good mother. But then Ida notices some odd things. Where is the auburn hair Caroline's letters mentioned? Why is she not tall or allergic to the family's cat? After some snooping, Ida realizes that Caroline is an imposter. Could she be a murderess, too? 

Readers will enjoy the mystery as  they are immersed in the era of life on the prairie. Like all History Mysteries, a section at the end explains the historical setting. -Booklist


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Interest Level: Gr. 3-5 
Grade Equivalent:  5.4
DRA Level:  40
Lexile Measure: 760L
Guided Reading: S

Mystery of Skull Island  
by
Elizabeth McDavid Jones

* 18th c. Charles Town, SC *

In 1724, twelve-year-old Rachel and her best friend Sally discover a pirates' hiding place on a deserted island near their home in Charles Town, South Carolina. And they suspect it may be connected to the mean woman who will soon become Rachel's stepmother.

This historical fiction story is full of suspense, and is complemented by charming illustrations and, as with other History Mysteries, a section that provides historical background, in this case on the history of Charles Town in 1724.


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Interest Level: Gr. 3-5 
Grade Equivalent:  5.3
DRA Level:  40
Lexile Measure: 720L
Guided Reading: S

The Strange Case of Baby H  
by
Kathryn Reiss

* 1906 San Francisco earthquake *

Clara, 12, and her family are awakened in the early morning to a quake, and an abandoned baby on their doorstep. The mystery deepens when they discovers the infant was kidnapped and is in danger.

Mystery fans will be hooked by the daring rescues, escapes, and sinister criminals. Details about the earthquake are seamlessly incorporated into the narrative. As with all History Mysteries, a section at the end explains the historical setting of this book. -S.L.J.


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Interest Level: Gr. 3-5 
Grade Equivalent:  5.6
DRA Level:  40
Lexile Measure: 880L
Guided Reading: S

Ghost Light at Graveyard Shoal  
by
Elizabeth McDavid Jones

* late 19th century Virginia *

Rhoda and her family live on an island near Virginia, where her father is the keeper of a Lifesaving Station. It's 1895 and a series of shipwrecks begin to make Rhoda wonder if there a person intentionally leading the ships to crash?  Rhoda finds out while readers are enraptured by the ghostly tale.

In this strong addition to the History Mysteries series, "Jones combines a ghost story, a young girl's love of animals,suspense on the high seas, and a rip-roaring mystery to create a highly appealing story. Rhoda is 1895's answer to Nancy Drew."- VOYA


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Interest Level: Grade 3-5 
Lexile Measure:  720L

Betrayal at Cross Creek  
by
Kathleen Ernst

* Revolutionary War *

The American Revolution comes alive in this absorbing novel set in 1775. Elspeth and her grandparents moved from Scotland to North Carolina to escape the poverty and instability of their homeland and are forced to choose sides in the brewing conflict. Local Patriots continually confront the members of her family, using scare tactics to try and persuade her grandfather and cousins to join their cause.

This well-told History Mysteries has an intriguing plot, and details about the Scottish settlers and colonial life are carefully integrated into the story. -SLJ


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Interest Level: Gr. 3-5 
Grade Equivalent:  4.9
DRA Level:  40
Lexile Measure: 560L
Guided Reading: S

Gangsters at the Grand Atlantic  
by
Sarah Masters Buckey

* 1920s America *

It's 1925, and Emily, 12, has just witnessed gangsters beating up a neighborhood store owner. Fearing they will come after her, she and her sister travel to New Jersey for a week at a seaside hotel. Soon, however, she sees one of the gangsters and enlists the help of her new friend, Gwen. Together, they spy on the gangster and plot his downfall.

This suspenseful History Mysteries story communicates a great deal about 1920s attitudes, class distinctions, social problems, and dress. An appended section has information about the period. -SLJ


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