Friday Barnes, Girl Detective (Friday Barnes #1) by R. A. Spratt. Roaring Brook Press, 2016. 216 pages.
What It Is: middle grades mystery + humor
What It’s About: Friday Barnes, youngest child of rather eccentric, academic parents, solves a crime and earns a whopping $50,000 in reward money. She spends it all on tuition, room, and board at an elite private school, sure that this new school will be a better fit for her own intellect. Friday quickly realizes that private school culture is a world of its own, complete with fashion musts, litigious parents and the money to hire lawyers, and plenty of intrigue and mystery. Her fellow students and teachers quickly realize Friday is the go to girl for solving their little mysteries, so Friday starts to earn some extra cash in return for using her superior reasoning powers on others’ behalf.
What Works/Doesn’t Work: Humor, black-and-white cartoon illustrations sprinkled throughout, and plenty of mini-mysteries keep the reader hooked in this fun novel. Friday and her roommate, Melanie, have a quirky, funny little friendship that leverages both girls’ eccentric talents. The plot is over the top, like most mysteries, and that adds to its charm.
Don’t expect this to be an intellectually stimulating, “deep” novel; it’s not. But it IS very fun reading and offers girls a detective of their own to line up with the humorous boy detectives a la Brixton Brothers, Encyclopedia Brown, and their ilk. If we’re comparing heroines to Sherlock Holmes, I like this gal Friday more than Enola Holmes. Not so much “girl power,” and more sheer skill and pluck.
What I Think: Offer this to your intermediate readers (3rd-5th grade) and up for some fun reading, especially for those who enjoy mysteries, want humor in the mix, and need a bit of illustration power to help them along.