The Art of Detection

Books to Share

Ace-Lacewing: Bug Detective by David Biedrzychi
The Composer is Dead by Lemony Snicket
Miss Nelson is Missing by Harry Allard
The Mystery at Eatum Hall by John Kelley
What Really Happened to Humpty?: From the Files of a Hard-Boiled Detective by Joe Dumpty

Books to Show or Booktalk

Bad Bear Detectives by Daniel Manus Pinkwater
Cool Crime Scene Basics: Securing the Scene by Esther Beck
Tough Cookie by David Wisniewski
Tips and Tricks for Junior Detectives by Thomas Brezina
You Wouldn’t Want to be a Chicago Gangster by Rupert Matthews

Bulletin Board

Can You Solve the Case?

Cover the board with black paper. Cut out letters from old magazines to make the phrase: Can You Solve the Case? Use the mug shot background from Photos 8, available at and paste the photographs of your suspects on the background. See the activities section for further information. Add images of magnifying glasses and footprints.


Detective Badge

Copy the nametag below.

An outline of a nametag badge to cut out and enlarge to put on a posterboard



Enlarge clip art question marks and hang them from the ceiling. Create WANTED for Reading posters with photos of staff, board members, community leaders, volunteers, etc. Enlarge fingerprints to use at wall art. Cut out footprints using black construction paper and laminate. Tape the footprints leading from the entrance of the library to the program area.


Clue Cupcakes

Serve cookies or cupcakes with black or white frosting arranged in a giant question mark.  See one example here.


Miniature Magnifying Glasses and Keychain Flashlights

Give out miniature magnifying glasses or keychain flashlights. Both items are available for purchase from Oriental Trading Company.

Costumes and Props

Wear a trench coat, black sunglasses, and a police badge.

Rhymes and Poetry

Recite or read an excerpt from the spooky, classic poem The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe. Print out images of objects mentioned in the poem and pass them out to the audience. Invite children to raise their object in the air when they hear it mentioned. Invite audience participation with hand gestures and sounds. Pass out wooden instruments for the children to tap and rap on.

The Raven (By Edgar Allen Poe, adapted by Megan Clark)

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary, (tap temple)
Over many an old and curious story of forgotten lore— (open and close book)
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping, (nod, soft tapping noise)
“’Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—
Only this and nothing more.” (gesture “nothing” with hands)

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December, (tap temple, shiver)
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor. (snap fingers, touch floor)

And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain (rub hands back and forth)
Thrilled me—filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before; (hands on face in terror)
So that now, to still the beating of my heart. I stood repeating (quickly thump heart)
“’Tis some visitor asking entrance at my chamber door, (shake index finger)
Some late visitor asking entrance at my chamber door; (open and close door)
This it is and nothing more.” (nothing gesture)

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer, (flex biceps in strong gesture)
“Sir,” said I, “or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore; (palms up and open)
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping (pretend to sleep, softly tap)
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door, (tapping noises)
That I scarce was sure I heard you,”—here I opened wide the door; — (point to ear, open door gesture)
Darkness there and nothing more. (cover eyes)

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning, (turning motion)
Soon again I heard a tapping something louder than before. (louder tapping)
“Surely,” said I, “Surely that is something at my window; (hands above and below head)
Let me see, then, what it is, and this mystery explore— (thump heart quickly then stop)
‘Tis the wind and nothing more!” (make whooshing noises)

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter, (fling open, flying motions)
In there stepped an old Raven, who perched above my chamber door,
Perched, and sat, and nothing more. (nothing gesture)

I said, “Ghastly grim and old Raven wandering from the Nightly shore—
Tell me what thy name is on the Night’s shore!”
Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.” (echo ‘Nevermore’)

And the Raven, sitting lonely on that statue, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour (hold up 1 finger, pouring motion)
Nothing further then he uttered; not a feather then he fluttered— (nothing gesture, flying motions)
Till I scarcely more than muttered: “Other friends have flown before— (flying motions)
On the morrow he will leave me, as my Hopes have flown before.”
Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.” (echo ‘Nevermore’)

(make loud tapping noises, then gradually get softer)

Riddles and Jokes

(Adapted by Megan Clark from the website, Jokes by Kids)

Q: Why was the detective standing on dog poo?
A: He was on doo-ty!

Q: Why did the detective spend a lot of time asleep in his bed?
A: He was an undercover cop!

There were once three robbers. They had just robbed a bank and the police were following them, so they all climbed up a different tree. The police went to the first tree and said, “Who goes there?” The first robber said, “Tweet, tweet!” The police thought he was a bird and went on. Then the police went to the second tree and said, “Who goes there?” The robber said, “Who Who!” and the police thought he was an owl and went on. Then the police went to the third tree and called up, “Who goes there?” Now the third robber wasn’t all that smart. So he said, “Mooooooooo.” The policeman stopped for a second and thought. “Wait a second, I’ve got one!”


Detective Badges
  • Detective badge pattern template
  • Decorating items such as stickers, pompoms, jewels, foam shapes, buttons, etc.
  • Yarn

Copy the badge template at the end of the program.  Allow the kids to decorate them. Punch a hole and thread the yarn through so the kids can wear their badges around their necks.  Dowload this PDF file of the badge nametag, cut out the image, and use it as a nametag or other crafts.

Photo of a completed badge with jewels, buttons, stars, and the words Miss Megan written with a marker

Photo and artwork by Megan Clark

Games and Activities

Fake Blood
(Adapted by Megan Clark from Chemistry)
  • Clear corn syrup
  • Water
  • Red food coloring (Note: only an adult should handle)
  • Ziploc bags
  • Cornstarch
  • Cocoa powder
  • Plastic spoons

Place three spoonfuls of water inside a Ziploc bag. Add two spoonfuls of clear corn syrup. Seal the bag tightly and squish together. Open the bag and add two spoonfuls of cornstarch. Seal and squish. Open the bag and add one and a half spoonfuls of cocoa powder. Seal and squish. Note: To make the fake blood thicker add more cornstarch. To make the fake blood a deeper red color add more cocoa.

Scientific Process

Before adding each ingredient, invite the children to list its characteristics. With this knowledge, invite the children to make an educated guess, or hypothesis, on what will happen when they add that ingredient to the mixture.

Also see this video on no stain, non-sticky fake blood on Youtube.

Case #1: At the Drop of a Hat (by Megan Clark)

Poster board with photos of gangsters and crime scenes and other crafts mentioned in this program

Photo and artwork by Megan Clark


One of the summer reading club prizes, a stack of pink gangster hats, have been stolen from your library. The four suspects are the notorious gangsters Bonnie Parker, Clyde Barrow, Al Capone, and Frank Costello. Clues include vegetation left on the floor of the crime scene, and a set of balloons sent from Clyde Barrow to Bonnie Parker. 

Program Outline
  1. Tell the kids that they will need to use their detective skills in order to solve a mystery.
  2. Read aloud the Crime Report.Ask the kids what information they have learned.
  3. Pass out the Crime Scene Photos, and have the kids examine them. What clues do they see?
  4. Read aloud the Suspect Report.
  5. Show the mug shots of the following suspects: Bonnie Parker, Clyde Barrow, Al Capone, and Frank Costello.
  6. Share a few age appropriate facts about some of America’s most notorious gangsters.
  7. Tell the kids that search warrants were issued for the residences of each of the suspects. Their task is to examine each vegetation sample and compare and contrast them to the vegetation crime scene evidence. Can they find a match?
  8. Play the recording with the FBI Bulletinand then read the Surveillance Report.
  9. Have the kids pop all the balloons and search for any clues. Once all the pieces of the letter have been found, have the kids assemble the note and read it aloud.
  10. Invite the kids to guess the identity of the thief. Then give them the sealed envelope containing the Case Solution.
  1. Purchase four different types of fake vegetation at a dollar or craft store.
  2. Print the Crime Report and the Suspect Report located at the end of the chapter.
  3. Set up a temporary Crime Scene. Create evidence markers by folding long narrow strips of yellow poster board in half and labeling them with black numbers. Place Evidence Marker #1 at the location of the missing hats. Place Evidence Marker #2near the vegetation evidenceleft by the thief on the floor.
  4. Take several photos of the crime scene and develop them. Place the photos in an envelope and print out the CRIME SCENE PHOTOS label. Then, you may disassemble the crime scene.
  5. Prepare the vegetation evidence. First, place the vegetation you used in the crime scene photos in a plastic bag and attach the CRIME SCENE EVIDENCElabel. Second, create vegetation samples from each of the suspect’s yards. To make the case trickier, consider creating mixes of vegetation. Make sure that the samples in Bonnie and Clyde’s containers are the same and that both samples match the crime scene evidence. Place the samples in four clear containers and attach the SUSPECT LABELSavailable at the end of the chapter.
  6. Assemble mug shots of your suspects. Print out public domain gangster photos from Wikipedia. Glue the photos on the mug shot background from Photos 8.
  7. Create an audio recording of someone reading the FBI Bulletin script. Print out the Surveillance Report from the end of the program.
  8. Print the note from Clyde Barrow that is available at the end of the program. Cut the note into 8 pieces puzzle style. Roll up each piece and place inside a different balloon. Blow up the balloons.
  9. Print out the Case Solution andlabel from the end of thechapter, and seal inside an envelope.

Web-Based Activities

Pintura: Art Detective - Players must choose how to proceed in the case in order to solve the mystery. The mystery slips in a little art history as well.

Ace Detectives - Join the four Ace Detectives in order to solve cases. After the evidence is given, the player decides how to proceed with the case by choosing from several options.

Professional Resources

You Wouldn’t Want to be a Chicago Gangster by Rubert Matthews

This juvenile nonfiction title is full of intriguing facts about the famous gangsters of Chicago.

Photos 8 - Free photos and art provided by the website’s owner Sam Mugraby. Some restrictions apply.

Fake blood recipes for scary costumes for kids.

Jokes by Kids - features jokes by kids for kids.

Free Clip Art Now - contains detective images which are in the public domain.

Wikipedia - This website offers multiple photographs that are in the public domain.

Edgar Allen Poe Museum - features a kid friendly biography of Edgar Allen Poe, the author of The Raven.

Federal Bureau of Investigation Kids Page - Designed for kids K-5th grade, this government website has information about the history of the FBI. Kids can also create a disguise for an undercover agent and play simple games.

MysteryNet’s Kid’s Mysteries - includes a history of mystery stories for kids. Other features include scary stories to read (some written by kids), magic tricks to perform, and mysteries to read and solve.

Detective Badge Nametag

Dowload this PDF file of the badge nametag, cut out the image, and use it as a nametag or other crafts.

Case #1: At the Drop of a Hat Patterns Crime Report

Dowload these PDFs of Case #1.

Crime Report and Suspect Report

Solution Report

FBI Bulletin / Survelliance Report

Note From Clyde

Evidence and Crime Scene Labels

Page last modified: February 15, 2012