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Law And Crime: Books For Kids

Looking for a list of the best kids books about law and crime?

Children’s literature has many notable options when it comes to law and crime. To help you find the right books for you and your young reader, we’ve compiled a list of the best kids books about law and crime.

Our list includes picture books and chapter books. Picture books are generally great options for toddlers and for preschool and kindergarten age children. Picture books are especially enjoyable for adults to read aloud with young kids. The chapter books on our list are generally best for elementary through early middle school age tween kids. You can filter to sort by the best book type for your kid, and you can also use our table of contents to jump to particular topics you think your kid will enjoy.

When it comes to children’s stories about law and crime, there are a variety of titles. This list covers everything, from classics like While the Clock Ticked to popular sellers like The Eternity Code to some of our favorite hidden gems like The Thief Lord.

We hope this list of kids books about law and crime can be a helpful resource for parents, teachers, and others searching for a new book! As you explore the list, please comment below to let us know what books you would add.

Top 10 Books About Law And Crime

Baby's First Bank Heist book
#1
Baby's First Bank Heist
Written by Jim Whalley & illustrated by Stephen Collins
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-6

Move over, Bonnie and Clyde, because there’s a new criminal mastermind in town . . . Baby Frank! Baby Frank is dangerously cute, and he’s about to pull off the most daring baby bank heist ever. Why? His parents say that he can’t have a pet—“pets are for older kids,” “be happy with your teddy,” and “they cost too much to keep,” they say. What’s a baby to do . . . ? Rob a bank, of course! You have been warned . . . With eye-catching illustrations from Guardian cartoonist Stephen Collins, this laugh-out-loud rhyming text is Boss Baby meets Mission Impossible.

The Magic Misfits book
#2
The Magic Misfits
Written by Neil Patrick Harris & illustrated by Kyle Hinton and Lissy Marlin
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

From award-winning actor, Neil Patrick Harris, comes the magical first book in a new series with plenty of tricks up its sleeve. When street magician Carter runs away, he never expects to find friends and magic in a sleepy New England town. But like any good trick, things change instantly as greedy B.B. Bosso and his crew of crooked carnies arrive to steal anything and everything they can get their sticky fingers on. After a fateful encounter with the local purveyor of illusion, Dante Vernon, Carter teams up with five other like-minded illusionists. Together, using both teamwork and magic, they’ll set out to save the town of Mineral Wells from Bosso’s villainous clutches. These six Magic Misfits will soon discover adventure, friendship, and their own self-worth in this delightful new series. (Psst. Hey, you! Yes, you! Congratulations on reading this far. As a reward, I’ll let you in on a little secret… This book isn’t just a book. It’s a treasure trove of secrets and ciphers and codes and even tricks. Keep your eyes peeled and you’ll discover more than just a story—you’ll learn how to make your own magic!)

The Thief Lord book
#3
The Thief Lord
Written by Cornelia Funke & illustrated by Christian Birmingham
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

The enchanting international bestseller with bonus back matter and a beautiful new cover!

Two orphaned brothers, Prosper and Bo, have run away to Venice, where crumbling canals and misty alleyways shelter a secret community of street urchins. Leader of this motley crew of lost children is a clever, charming boy with a dark history of his own: He calls himself the Thief Lord.

Propser and Bo relish their new “family” and life of petty crime. But their cruel aunt and a bumbling detective are on their trail. And posing an even greater threat to the boys’ freedom is something from a forgotten past: a beautiful magical treasure with the power to spin time itself.

The Tower Treasure book
#4
The Tower Treasure
Written by Franklin W. Dixon
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

The Hardy Boys series, first published in 1927, has sold more than 70 million copies! Now with a brand-new look, this is an edition that collectors won’t want to miss! In The Tower Treasure, the first book in the incredibly popular, long-running series, Frank and Joe Hardy work together to solve a high-stakes jewel heist. A special treat for Hardy Boys fans and any reader who’s new to the series!

V Is for Voting book
#5
V Is for Voting
Written by Kate Farrell & illustrated by Caitlin Kuhwald
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-6

V Is for Voting is an ABC book that introduces progressive families to concepts like social justice and civil rights and reminds readers that every vote counts!

A is for active participation.
B is for building a more equal nation.
C is for citizens’ rights and our duty.
D is for difference, our strength and our beauty.

An engaging introduction to the tenets of democracy, V Is for Voting is a playful, poetic, and powerful primer about the importance of voting and activism. Featuring Kate Farrell’s rhyming text and Caitlin Kuhwald’s bold art, plus thoughtful back matter, the book is a gorgeous, and crucial, addition to every young reader’s library. It makes the perfect gift for fans of A Is for Activist, Woke Baby, and Feminist Baby.

This is Not My Hat book
#6
This is Not My Hat
Written & illustrated by Jon Klassen
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

The 2013 Caldecott Medal winner!

From the creator of the #1 New York Times best-selling and award-winning I Want My Hat Back comes a second wry tale.

When a tiny fish shoots into view wearing a round blue topper (which happens to fit him perfectly), trouble could be following close behind. So it’s a good thing that enormous fish won’t wake up. And even if he does, it’s not like he’ll ever know what happened. . . . Visual humor swims to the fore as the best-selling Jon Klassen follows his breakout debut with another deadpan-funny tale.

Thieves of Weirdwood book
#7
Thieves of Weirdwood
Written by William Shivering & illustrated by Anna Earley
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Artemis Fowl meets The Spiderwick Chronicles in this brand-new middle-grade fantasy series brimming with action, humor, and monsters beyond imagining.

Twelve-year-olds Arthur and Wally are determined to steal their way up the ranks of the notorious Black Feathers gang. With loan sharks chasing after Arthur’s father and Wally’s brother’s hospital bill due, they’re in need of serious cash.

When Arthur spots some wealthy strangers exiting a derelict mansion, he smells an opportunity for a big score. Little do the boys realize, they’ve stumbled upon Weirdwood Manor, the headquarters of a magical order who protect the Balance between the Real and Imaginary worlds. When Kingsport is besieged by nightmarish Imaginary monsters, it’s up to these young thieves to save their city.

Twenty-Four Robbers book
#8
Twenty-Four Robbers
Written & illustrated by Audrey Wood
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

When twenty-four robbers visit a woman’s cottage she gives them what they ask for, but they keep coming back for more until they are ready to give something to her.

The Cherry Thief book
#9
The Cherry Thief
Written & illustrated by Renata Galindo
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Chef Armand’s cakes are famous for the delicious red cherries that adorn each one. But when the cherries start disappearing, he sets a trap to catch the thief, with unexpected results! What will he do with the culprit, and is there a long-term solution that will make everyone happy? A charming debut picture book filled with very visual humour.

Who Is Ruth Bader Ginsburg? book
#10
Who Is Ruth Bader Ginsburg?
Written by Patricia Brennan Demuth & illustrated by Jake Murray
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

You’ve probably seen her on t-shirts, mugs, and even tattoos, well, now that famous face graces the cover of our latest Who Is? title.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is famous for her stylish collars (called jabots) and her commanding dissents. This opera-loving New Yorker has always spoken her mind; as a young lawyer, RBG advocated for gender equality and women’s rights when few others did. She gained attention for the cases she won when arguing in front of the Supreme Court, before taking her place on the bench in 1993. Author Patricia Brennan Demuth answers all the question about what makes RBG so notorious and irreplaceable

Table of Contents
Scroll to books about Law And Crime and...

Books About Law And Crime and Thieves, Robbers, And Outlaws

The Magic Misfits
Written by Neil Patrick Harris & illustrated by Kyle Hinton and Lissy Marlin
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

From award-winning actor, Neil Patrick Harris, comes the magical first book in a new series with plenty of tricks up its sleeve. When street magician Carter runs away, he never expects to find friends and magic in a sleepy New England town. But like any good trick, things change instantly as greedy B.B. Bosso and his crew of crooked carnies arrive to steal anything and everything they can get their sticky fingers on. After a fateful encounter with the local purveyor of illusion, Dante Vernon, Carter teams up with five other like-minded illusionists. Together, using both teamwork and magic, they’ll set out to save the town of Mineral Wells from Bosso’s villainous clutches. These six Magic Misfits will soon discover adventure, friendship, and their own self-worth in this delightful new series. (Psst. Hey, you! Yes, you! Congratulations on reading this far. As a reward, I’ll let you in on a little secret… This book isn’t just a book. It’s a treasure trove of secrets and ciphers and codes and even tricks. Keep your eyes peeled and you’ll discover more than just a story—you’ll learn how to make your own magic!)

The Thief Lord
Written by Cornelia Funke & illustrated by Christian Birmingham
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

The enchanting international bestseller with bonus back matter and a beautiful new cover!

Two orphaned brothers, Prosper and Bo, have run away to Venice, where crumbling canals and misty alleyways shelter a secret community of street urchins. Leader of this motley crew of lost children is a clever, charming boy with a dark history of his own: He calls himself the Thief Lord.

Propser and Bo relish their new “family” and life of petty crime. But their cruel aunt and a bumbling detective are on their trail. And posing an even greater threat to the boys’ freedom is something from a forgotten past: a beautiful magical treasure with the power to spin time itself.

The Tower Treasure
Written by Franklin W. Dixon
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

The Hardy Boys series, first published in 1927, has sold more than 70 million copies! Now with a brand-new look, this is an edition that collectors won’t want to miss! In The Tower Treasure, the first book in the incredibly popular, long-running series, Frank and Joe Hardy work together to solve a high-stakes jewel heist. A special treat for Hardy Boys fans and any reader who’s new to the series!

Honorable Mentions
  1. Thieves of Weirdwood - Artemis Fowl meets The Spiderwick Chronicles in this brand-new middle-grade fantasy series brimming with action, humor, and monsters beyond imagining. Twelve-year-olds Arthur and Wally are determined to steal their way up the ranks of the notorious Black Feathers gang. With loan sharks chasing after Arthur’s father and Wally’s brother’s hospital bill due, they’re in need of serious cash. When Arthur spots some wealthy strangers exiting a derelict mansion, he smells an opportunity for a big score. Little do the boys realize, they’ve stumbled upon Weirdwood Manor, the headquarters of a magical order who protect the Balance between the Real and Imaginary worlds. When Kingsport is besieged by nightmarish Imaginary monsters, it’s up to these young thieves to save their city.

  2. Twenty-Four Robbers - When twenty-four robbers visit a woman’s cottage she gives them what they ask for, but they keep coming back for more until they are ready to give something to her.

  3. The Cherry Thief - Chef Armand’s cakes are famous for the delicious red cherries that adorn each one. But when the cherries start disappearing, he sets a trap to catch the thief, with unexpected results! What will he do with the culprit, and is there a long-term solution that will make everyone happy? A charming debut picture book filled with very visual humour.

  4. Ra the Mighty: The Great Tomb Robbery - A smug royal cat turned detective and his dung beetle sidekick are on the case when a precious tomb gets ransacked in the Valley of the Kings. Ra the Mighty adores his duties as Pharaoh’s cat: naps by the pool and plenty of snacks. Being lazy is so much fun. But when a royal tomb gets robbed, Ra and his hardworking friend Khepri must team up to restore justice. The clues point to a young boy whom Ra admires. Will the Great Detective play favorites, or will he uncover the truth? Mystery awaits! More than thirty wacky illustrations with fun historical details bring these oddball characters to life, along with a glossary, pronunciation guide, and detailed author’s note about ancient Egypt. Fans of Bad Kitty will love Ra’s witty voice and arrogant antics. Pair with companion, Ra the Mighty: Cat Detective.

Books About Law And Crime and Action And Adventure

Baby's First Bank Heist
Written by Jim Whalley & illustrated by Stephen Collins
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-6

Move over, Bonnie and Clyde, because there’s a new criminal mastermind in town . . . Baby Frank! Baby Frank is dangerously cute, and he’s about to pull off the most daring baby bank heist ever. Why? His parents say that he can’t have a pet—“pets are for older kids,” “be happy with your teddy,” and “they cost too much to keep,” they say. What’s a baby to do . . . ? Rob a bank, of course! You have been warned . . . With eye-catching illustrations from Guardian cartoonist Stephen Collins, this laugh-out-loud rhyming text is Boss Baby meets Mission Impossible.

Greetings from Witness Protection!
Written by Jake Burt
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 10-14

A funny and poignant debut middle-grade novel about a foster-care girl who is placed with a family in the witness protection program, and finds that hiding in plain sight is complicated and dangerous.

Breakout
Written & illustrated by Kate Messner
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Told in letters, poems, text messages, news stories, and comics—a series of documents Nora collects for the Wolf Creek Community Time Capsule Project—Breakout is a thrilling story that will leave readers thinking about who’s really welcome in the places we call home. Nora Tucker is looking forward to summer vacation in Wolf Creek—two months of swimming, popsicles, and brushing up on her journalism skills for the school paper. But when two inmates break out of the town’s maximum security prison, everything changes. Doors are locked, helicopters fly over the woods, and police patrol the school grounds. Worst of all, everyone is on edge, and fear brings out the worst in some people Nora has known her whole life. Even if the inmates are caught, she worries that home might never feel the same.

Honorable Mentions
  1. The Eternity Code - Artemis Fowl has created the most powerful new supercomputer known to man—using stolen technology from an elite race of underground fairies. When the computer falls into the hands of an IT billionaire with a mob connection, Artemis is in deep trouble. Only one fairy can help now. If only he wasn’t the fairies’ public enemy number one. . .

  2. Theodore Boone - Theodore Boone is back on the case in an all-new adventure! Bestselling author John Grisham delivers a page-turning legal thriller for a new generation of readers. Theo has been worried about his good friend Woody Lambert. Woody is struggling at school and making bad choices. But when Woody is arrested—an unwitting accomplice to armed robbery—Theo knows he is innocent. Racing the clock while Woody sits in jail, Theo will do everything in his power to help his friend and save Woody from an unforgiving system where justice is not equal for all. Brimming with the intrigue and suspense that made John Grisham a #1 international bestseller and undisputed master of the modern legal thriller, Theodore Boone’s trials and triumphs will keep readers hooked until the very last page.

  3. Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer - A perfect murder A faceless witness A lone courtroom champion knows the whole truth . . . and he’s only thirteen years old Meet Theodore Boone In the small city of Strattenburg, there are many lawyers, and though he’s only thirteen years old, Theo Boone thinks he’s one of them. Theo knows every judge, policeman, court clerk—and a lot about the law. He dreams of being a great trial lawyer, of a life in the courtroom. But Theo finds himself in court much sooner than expected. Because he knows so much—maybe too much—he is suddenly dragged into the middle of a sensational murder trial. A cold-blooded killer is about to go free, and only Theo knows the truth. The stakes are high, but Theo won’t stop until justice is served. Brimming with the intrigue and suspense that made John Grisham a #1 international bestseller and the undisputed master of the legal thriller, Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer will keep readers guessing and pages turning.

  4. The Unsinkable Walker Bean - In order to save his ailing grandfather from a curse, boy inventor Walker Bean must return an accursed pearl skull to the witches who created it, and face pirates, magical machines, and deadly peril along the way.

Books About Law And Crime and America

V Is for Voting
Written by Kate Farrell & illustrated by Caitlin Kuhwald
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-6

V Is for Voting is an ABC book that introduces progressive families to concepts like social justice and civil rights and reminds readers that every vote counts!

A is for active participation.
B is for building a more equal nation.
C is for citizens’ rights and our duty.
D is for difference, our strength and our beauty.

An engaging introduction to the tenets of democracy, V Is for Voting is a playful, poetic, and powerful primer about the importance of voting and activism. Featuring Kate Farrell’s rhyming text and Caitlin Kuhwald’s bold art, plus thoughtful back matter, the book is a gorgeous, and crucial, addition to every young reader’s library. It makes the perfect gift for fans of A Is for Activist, Woke Baby, and Feminist Baby.

Who Is Ruth Bader Ginsburg?
Written by Patricia Brennan Demuth & illustrated by Jake Murray
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

You’ve probably seen her on t-shirts, mugs, and even tattoos, well, now that famous face graces the cover of our latest Who Is? title.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is famous for her stylish collars (called jabots) and her commanding dissents. This opera-loving New Yorker has always spoken her mind; as a young lawyer, RBG advocated for gender equality and women’s rights when few others did. She gained attention for the cases she won when arguing in front of the Supreme Court, before taking her place on the bench in 1993. Author Patricia Brennan Demuth answers all the question about what makes RBG so notorious and irreplaceable

The Unabomber
Written by Bryan Denson
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

A new true-crime series that follows FBI agents behind the scenes as they work to keep Americans safe.

A case of homegrown terrorism: the Unabomber. Agent Kathleen Puckett was a successful linguist and a highly trained psychologist before she was recruited for the UNABOMB investigation. The Unabomber had evaded capture for 17 years, carried out 13 bombings, and killed three men. Agent Puckett was a catalyst in understanding the psychology behind the Unabomber crimes. She led the team to make the arrest of Theodore Kaczynski on April 4, 1996, bringing down one of the most notorious domestic terrorists in American history.

Honorable Mentions
  1. I Am Sonia Sotomayor - Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina Supreme Court Justice, is the subject of the sixteenth picture book in the New York Times bestselling series of biographies about heroes. This friendly, fun biography series focuses on the traits that made our heroes great—the traits that kids can aspire to in order to live heroically themselves. Each book tells the story of one of America’s icons in a lively, conversational way that works well for the youngest nonfiction readers and that always includes the hero’s childhood influences. At the back are an excellent timeline and photos. This volume features Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina Supreme Court Justice.

  2. Notorious RBG Young Readers' Edition: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg - The New York Times bestselling biography Notorious RBG—whose concept originated with a Tumblr page of the same name—is now available in a vibrant, full-color young readers’ edition. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has become an icon to millions. Her tireless fight for equality and women’s rights has inspired not only great strides in the workforce but has impacted the law of the land. And now, perfect for a younger generation, comes an accessible biography of this fierce woman, detailing her searing dissents and powerful jurisprudence. This entertaining and insightful young readers’ edition mixes pop culture, humor, and expert analysis for a remarkable account of the indomitable Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Heroine. Trailblazer. Pioneer.

  3. No Truth Without Ruth: The Life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg - From award-winning author Kathleen Krull comes an empowering picture book biography—with dazzling illustrations from artist Nancy Zhang—about the second female justice of the Supreme Court, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Ruth Bader Ginsburg may be one of the most respected women in the United States, but her recognition is nothing short of hard-won. For years before becoming a justice of the Supreme Court, Ruth had to fight the notion that being female meant that she was less smart, less qualified, and less worthy of attention than her male counterparts. Throughout college, law school, and her work life, she faced discrimination—because she was a woman. But it was in her fight for equality as a lawyer that she made an imprint on American history, by changing the way the law dealt with women’s rights and by showing people that unfairness to women wasn’t just a female problem—that it negatively affected men and children, too. In this inspiring picture book from award-winning author Kathleen Krull and artist Nancy Zhang, readers will learn about Ruthless Ruthie—a warrior for equality, defender of justice, and a trailblazer for girls everywhere.

  4. Ruth Bader Ginsburg (You Should Meet) - Get to know Ruth Bader Ginsberg, the inspiring Supreme Court justice, in this fascinating nonfiction Level 3 Ready-to-Read, part of a series of biographies about people “you should meet!” Meet Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Also known as the notorious RBG, Ginsberg is only the second female Supreme Court justice in America’s history. She has spent her entire life fighting for equal rights for all, especially women. RBG is a true superhero and young readers are sure to love getting to know her. A special section at the back of the book includes extras like the history of the Supreme Court and how to become a lawyer. With the You Should Meet series, learning about amazing people has never been so much fun!

Want to see books about America?

Books About Law And Crime and Detectives

The Eye That Never Sleeps
Written by Marissa Moss & illustrated by Jeremy Holmes
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-9

From award-winning author Marissa Moss comes the first children’s book about Allan Pinkerton, one of America’s greatest detectives. Everyone knows the story of Abraham Lincoln, but few know anything about the spy who saved him! Allan Pinkerton’s life changed when he helped the Chicago Police Department track down a group of counterfeiters. From there, he became the first police detective in Chicago and established the country’s most successful detective agency. He went on to solve more than 300 murders and recover millions of dollars in stolen money. However, his greatest contribution was protecting Abraham Lincoln on the way to his 1861 inauguration. Though assassins attempted to murder Lincoln en route, Pinkerton foiled their plot and brought the president safely to the capital. The Eye That Never Sleeps is illustrated with a contemporary cartoon style, mixing art and text in a way that appeals to readers of all ages. The book includes a bibliography and a timeline.

The Case of the Missing Painting
Written & illustrated by Dosh Archer
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-7

Someone has broken into the fancy art gallery and stolen a painting! Can Detective Paw and Patrol Officer Prickles discover who took it? Young readers can learn about police procedures and detective work as they follow along with Detective Paw and try to solve the case themselves!

The Case of the Stolen Drumsticks (Detective Paw of the Law: Time to Read, Level 3)
Written & illustrated by Dosh Archer
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Detective Paw and Patrol Officer Prickles reunite for The Case of the Stolen Drumsticks! Vinnie “The Crash” McClaren’s drumsticks disappear right before the Battle of the Bands! Can Detective Paw and Patrol Officer Prickles find the culprit before the show? Young readers can learn about police procedures and detective work as they follow along with Detective Paw and try to solve the case themselves!

Honorable Mentions
  1. The Clue in the Diary #7 - A special treat for Nancy Drew fans, and any reader who’s new to the series! This is a stunning new edition of an old favourite, The Clue in the Diary, the seventh book in the incredibly popular, long-running series. It’s the same exciting mystery that readers have fallen in love with for more than 80 years - Nancy must figure out the connection between a mysterious diary and a suspicious house fire. Now with a brand-new look, this is an edition that collectors won’t want to miss!

  2. Secret of Shadow Ranch #5 - Nancy is looking forward to a fun-filled vacation at Shadow Ranch, but she soon finds herself involved in solving a baffling mystery.

  3. The Secret of Red Gate Farm #6 - A special treat for Nancy Drew fans, and any reader who’s new to the series! This is a stunning new edition of an old favourite, The Secret of Red Gate Farm, the sixth book in the incredibly popular, long-running series. It’s the same exciting mystery that readers have fallen in love with for more than 80 years - Nancy and her friends must unravel the secrets of a mysterious conspiracy and track down a ring of counterfeiters. Now with a brand-new look, this is an edition that collectors won’t want to miss!

  4. Nancy's Mysterious Letter - A special treat for Nancy Drew fans, and any reader who’s new to the series! This is a stunning new edition of an old favourite, Nancy’s Mysterious Letter, the eighth book in the incredibly popular, long-running series. It’s the same exciting mystery that readers have fallen in love with for more than 80 years - when Nancy receives a letter informing her she’s heir to a fortune, she decides to track down the sender, as well as the other Nancy Drew. Now with a brand-new look, this is an edition that collectors won’t want to miss!

Want to see books about detectives?

Books About Law And Crime and History

Breakout! Escape from Alcatraz
Written by Lori Haskins & illustrated by Janet Hamlin
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

An easy-to-read study of Alcatraz, “The Rock,” describes how America’s renowned prison housed some of the country’s most notorious criminals.

Escape from Alcatraz
Written & illustrated by Eric Mark Braun
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

What’s more exciting than a prison break? Frank Morris and John and Clarence Anglin escaped from Alcatraz in 1962 and have never been caught. Many authorities are certain they died crossing San Francisco Bay. Relatives claim they made it to Brazil. The theories of what happened to them are endless. Find out the facts from people who dealt with the men and the case first-hand. This is one mystery you’ll definitely want to solve.

Big Top Burning
Written by Laura A. Woollett
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 9-12

The fire broke out at 2:40 p.m. Thousands of men, women, and children were crowded under Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey’s big top watching the Flying Wallendas begin their death-defying high-wire act. Suddenly someone screamed “Fire!” and the panic began. By 2:50 the tent had burned to the ground. Not everyone had made it out alive. With primary source documents and survivor interviews, Big Top Burning recounts the true story of the 1944 Hartford circus fire—one of the worst fire disasters in US history. Its remarkable characters include: Robert Segee, the fifteen-year-old circus roustabout and known pyromaniac; and the Cook children, Donald, Eleanor, and Edward, who were in the audience when the circus tent caught fire. Guiding readers through the investigations of the mysteries that make this moment in history so fascinating, this book asks: Was the unidentified body of a little girl nicknamed “Little Miss 1565” Eleanor Cook? Was the fire itself an act of arson—and did Robert Segee set it? Big Top Burning combines a gripping disaster story, an ongoing detective and forensics saga, and World War II-era American history, inviting middle-grade readers to take part in a critical evaluation of the evidence and draw their own conclusions.

Honorable Mentions
  1. The Children of Alcatraz - Offers a look at the life of the children who grew up on this infamous island with their families throughout its long and diverse history as a military prison, maximum security prison, and site of a Native American uprising, enhanced with period photos, interviews, and first-hand accounts.

  2. Lizzie Borden - Get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of what it takes to be considered one of the worst figures in history, with this fourth book in a nonfiction series that focuses on the most nefarious historical figures. Lizzie Borden took an axe, gave her mother forty whacks. When she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one. On August 4, 1892, the murders of wealthy and prominent Andrew and Abby Borden rocked the small town of Fall River, Massachusetts. The accused? Mild-mannered and highly respected Lizzie Borden, daughter of Andrew and stepdaughter of Abby. But did she actually do it? And if she did, why? Lizzie had as much to gain from the death of her father as anyone. Despite his wealth, Andrew did not believe in spending money and Lizzie had grown frustrated with the situation. And her actions in the days before the murder—trying to buy a type of strong poison—as well as those after the murder—burning a dress she claimed was stained—didn’t help. On August 11, Lizzie was arrested. But after a sensational trial, she was found not guilty. Rumors lingered. Stories persisted. And Lizzie continues to fascinate even today.

Want to see books about history?

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