He is instantly recognizable, even to people who have never read any of the novels and stories written about him. He uses his powers of deductive reasoning better than almost anyone. He never actually said, "Elementary, my dear Watson" except in the movies. And even though he's one of the most famous detectives the world has ever known, he never really existed.
Sherlock Holmes was created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who wrote many short stories and novels about this character who soon became more famous and popular than his creator (and if you think that Doyle was upset about that, you'd be right). Sherlock Holmes and his amazing powers of observation and deduction inspired many fictional kid and teen detectives over the years, like Encyclopedia Brown in Donald J. Sobol's Encyclopedia Brown series and Ingrid Levin-Hill in Peter Abrahams' Echo Falls Mystery series. Holmes inspired an autistic teenager named Christopher to solve a mystery in Mark Haddon's novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (a title which was taken from a line in one of Doyle's stories). Then there's the character of Conan Edogawa, a boy who's really a teenager (you'll have to suspend your disbelief) who solves mysteries in the style of his hero Sherlock Holmes. Conan Edogawa's adventures are the basis of the Case Closed series, which you can read as a manga series or watch as an anime series. If you look carefully, you can even find characters that were inspired by Sherlock Holmes but never mention him at all. Television characters like Detective Robert Goren on the Law & Order: Criminal Intent series and Dr. Gregory House on the House, M.D. series both use incredible powers of deductive reasoning that amaze (and sometimes annoy) their colleagues.
If you'd like to read about Doyle's most famous character in Doyle's own words, be sure to check out the original Sherlock Holmes novels and short stories. For an even more in-depth examination of Doyle's writings about Sherlock Holmes, you can even check out The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes series which includes one volume of novels and two volumes of short stories, and will help you answer questions about Sherlock Holmes that you didn't even realize you had. Oh, and be forewarned: those books are very thorough and VERY heavy!
But the main purpose of this blog post was to recommend some more recent novels featuring the character of Sherlock Holmes that would be great reads for a 6th-12th grade audience. None of these books were written by Arthur Conan Doyle, but all of them were inspired by him. Some of these stories focus primarily on the character of Holmes, while in others Holmes stays in the background for much of the time while other characters (like The Baker Street Irregulars) take the spotlight. Some of these stories take place during the time of Doyle's original stories, while others fill in gaps in the timeline.
I wasn't sure what order I should use for putting this list together: Oldest to newest? Least Holmes-centric to most Holmes-centric? Counting down to my personal top favorite? Anyway, I finally decided to put these books in order by reading level. So if you're starting the 6th grade, check out the books at the beginning of this list. And if you're getting ready to graduate from high school, then jump ahead to the end of this list instead. Note: Some of these books are stand-alone titles, and some of them belong to a series. For any book that belongs to a series, I'm recommending the first volume in the series so that you can start with that book and get a proper introduction to the characters.
The Fall of the Amazing Zalindas (Sherlock Holmes and the Baker Street Irregulars series) by Tracy Mack and Michael Citrin
The homeless boys who used to help Holmes with his cases in Doyle's stories become the stars of the show in this series. Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Watson, and Inspector Lestrade all make appearances in this story, but it is Wiggins and the other kids whom we watch closely as they try to help Holmes unravel the mysterious deaths of a group of tightrope walkers.
The 100-Year-Old Secret (Sherlock Files series) by Tracy Barrett
Just after they move to London, Xena and Xander are invited to join the Society For the Preservation of Famous Detectives. If that wasn't surprising enough, they also learn that the legendary Sherlock Holmes was their great-great-great-grandfather! When Xena and Xander look through Sherlock's book of unsolved cases, they realize that there is at least one case they might be able to solve.
The Case of the Missing Marquess (Enola Holmes Mystery series) by Nancy Springer
Enola Holmes, the younger sister of Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes, leaves the safety of her family estate and travels to London by herself to search for her missing mother. While she is trying to solve one mystery she discovers another, a puzzle involving some very dangerous kidnappers. At the same time she tries to hide from her brothers, who are expecting her to be a proper young lady, wear a corset, and go to boarding school.
The Raven League: Sherlock Holmes is Missing! by Alex Simmons and Bill McCay
After his friend Tim is killed, Archie Wiggins is kicked out of The Baker Street Irregulars. When Sherlock Holmes disappears, Wiggins finds a new group of friends and they form a group called The Raven League. As they try to solve the mystery of what happened to Holmes, they begin to uncover a secret plot to destroy the heart of the British Empire.
Eye of the Crow (Boy Sherlock Holmes series) by Shane Peacock
13-year-old Sherlock Holmes, an unhappy boy from a mixed marriage, tries to use his wits to solve the mystery of a brutal murder in Whitechapel. An Arab boy is accused of the crime, but Holmes believes that he is innocent and sets out to prove it. When Sherlock decides that he is going to find justice for the murdered woman, he never imagines that his investigation will put the lives of the people he loves the most in terrible danger.
Death Cloud (Young Sherlock Holmes series) by Andrew Lane
A teenage boy named Sherlock Holmes investigates the case of two people who appear to have died from the plague, but who were actually killed in a far more unusual way. Note: This book is officially endorsed by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's literary estate. I wonder if they also endorsed the Justin Bieber-esque haircut that young Sherlock has on the front cover!
The Patient's Eyes: The Dark Beginnings of Sherlock Holmes by David Pirie
There are two different subtitles used for this book: "The Dark Beginnings of Sherlock Holmes" and "A Compelling Riddle Featuring Arthur Conan Doyle and Dr. Joseph Bell." Medical student Arthur Conan Doyle is impressed by the brilliant, conceited, and annoying Dr. Joseph Bell. After Doyle graduates and starts practicing medicine, Doyle asks Bell to help him solve a mystery involving one of his patients (a beautiful woman with unusual eyes who thinks that she's being followed). Later, Doyle will use Dr. Bell as the model for the remarkable character and brilliant mind of Sherlock Holmes, and several of his Sherlock Holmes stories will be based on mysteries that Bell helped to solve.
The Sherlockian by Graham Moore
In 1893, Arthur Conan Doyle decides to kill off his most famous creation, a decision which turns public opinion against him. Doyle ends up getting involved in a real-life murder case, which he tries to solve with the help of his friend Bram Stoker. In modern day, a group of Sherlockians (Sherlock Holmes fans) are very excited to finally hear about what was in Arthur Conan Doyle's missing diary. When the scholar who is supposed to reveal the diary's contents turns up dead, it's up to Harold White to use his knowledge of Holmes' methods to figure out the identity of the murderer and discover what happened to the missing diary.