Review: Friday Barnes, Girl Detective by R.A. Spratt, Phil Gosier (Illustrations)

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Hardcover, 272 pages
Expected publication: January 19th 2016 by Roaring Brook Press
Source: Publisher

“…no one likes working with children,” argued Friday. “They’re unhygienic and disrespectful, and they have a limited resource of information on which to draw their small talk.”

You’re a child,” Miss Harrow pointed out.

“Which is how I know,” said Friday. “I spend all day surrounded by them.”

“Anyway, one of the parents is a plastic surgeon,” continued Miss  Harrow, “so he put eight stitches in your forehead and diagnosed you with mild concussion.”

“I was treated by a plastic surgeon for a bump on the head?” asked Friday.

“The school will just add the bill to Mr. Peterson’s account,” Miss Harrow assured her, “so don’t worry about that.”

“Oh, I wasn’t planning on starting my first day by initiating legal proceedings,” said Friday. “I like to go unnoticed and serving people with court summonses can really irritate them. I know–I learned that the hard way when I sued by kindergarten teacher for sending me to the naughty corner.”

“Why did she send you to the naughty corner?” asked Miss Harrow curiously.

“For refusing to participate in finger painting,” said Friday. “I argued that one of the primary features that distinguishes man from animals is that we are able to use tools; therefore, to finger-paint is devolutionary.”

“I can see how that would rub a kindergarten teacher the wrong way,” said Miss Harrow sympathetically.

I dare say that Friday Barnes has earned a much coveted spot on my heroines I love list. But that is starting at the end so let me introduce you to Friday Barnes:

The youngest in the family and entirely unexpected by her parents, Friday Barnes has a vocabulary that would leave many English professors scrabbling. She grew up mostly ignored in a family of intellectuals and academics. The only person she has some sort of warm relationship with is her detective uncle. When she essentially solves a mystery involving a bank and a stolen jewel that had baffled him and the insurance company he works for, Friday gets a considerable amount of reward money. She uses the reward money to send herself to a boarding school because she believes there’s nothing more worthwhile than a good education. Also, she says:

“Besides, if I must attend school, then I’d like to go somewhere that operates on a profit motive.”

“But why?” asked her father.

—-

“…because if they operate on a profit motive,” said Friday, “the PE teachers will accept bribes, so that I am never forced to run cross-country again.”

Haha. Have I said how much I adore Friday? However, she is not the only brilliant character in this novel. Her best friend Melanie is as odd a character as Friday is and the two complement each other perfectly. The principal of the school is actually likable and there’s even a tiny hint of romance to keep you snickering. The first in a series, the Friday Barnes: Girl Detective series works because the writing authentically portrays Friday’s immense intellect but at the same is careful to retain the childish quality that captures the vulnerability and life that characterizes good children’s books.

The book will appeal to both younger readers who will enjoy Friday’s friendships and sleuthing and older readers who will appreciate the crisp writing and humourous situations the kids find themselves in. The mystery is not terribly complex but it isn’t predictable and simple either. The plot manages to find a balance between originality and familiarity that serves it well.

Needless to spell out but I will do so anyway: Friday Barnes is a girl detective that everyone should look out for. I mean, Nancy who?

Strongly recommended.