Marty Frye, Private Eye

mary frye cover

Marty Frye, Private Eye:

The Case of the Missing Action Figure

By Janet Tashjian, Illustrated by Laurie Keller

 

Published by: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR); Revised edition (June 27, 2017)

Available in: hardcover, paperback

At the time of this review, there were two books in the Marty Frye, Private Eye series.

 

Poetic.

Marty Frye, Private Eye: The Case of the Missing Action Figure follows an inquisitive kid who likes to rhyme while he solves crime. His quirky, simple, and rhythmic adventures are endearing and sweet, and just right for the early chapter book reader.

The book’s art direction aids the newly independent reader with text that is bold and big, and bubble quotes interspersed within the prose (especially when our protagonist is rhyming). Combined with quirky, loose illustrations that echo comics, the look is friendly and jovial. The text, also, is early-reader friendly, with very short sentences and frequent breaks, both for three major sections and chapter breaks within these sections.

What makes the book bop along, though, is our hero, Marty. He’s interested and smart, but not a prodigy. He’s a normal kid with curiosity, a love of language, and eyes firmly on the world around him. The cases he solves are nothing crazy or life-threatening, just stuff in a kid’s world: a lost diary, and missing toys and art supplies. And, charmingly, he makes mistakes (“Give me a break. I made a mistake.”)

This is just the right mix of tension, humor, and easy reading that will entice young minds to follow along. Who can resist a kid whose motto is, “Give me the facts so I can follow the tracks.”

Lead on, young sir.

What do you say teachers, parents and writers? Use the comment below and let’s chat….

 

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The Ember Stone: A Branches Book (The Last Firehawk #1)

firehawk

The Ember Stone:

A Branches Book (The Last Firehawk #1)

By Katrina Charman, Illustrated by Jeremy Norton 

 

Published by: Scholastic Inc. (September 26, 2017)

Available in: paperback, library binding, Kindle, NOOK

At the time of this review, there were four books in The Last Firehawk series.

 

Magical.

The Ember Stone, the first book in the captivating new The Last Firehawk fantasy series, is simply a stunner. The story embraces the big concepts of good versus evil, small versus big, fear versus courage… all the great, powerful themes that propel master works before it (more on those later). This exquisitely crafted book exhibits a maturity of prose, concept, and art direction while staying true to the chapter book concept: exactly where newly independent readers need it in vocabulary, topic, simplicity, art production, and excitement.

The story owes much to specific plot points, themes, and overarching concepts of both classic and contemporary seminal works: Goldilocks and the Three Bears, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, and more. And yet, this is no copycat, mini-production for the young set. The protagonists are endearing, young animals of both the natural and imaginary worlds who are forthright, comic, courageous, and unique characters. The quest is evocative of historical themes, but quickly carves a path all its own. The lightning-fast pace, dramatic tension, inherent suspense, and page-turning joy propel this probably faster than young minds think they can read.

But perhaps the most immediately stunning aspect are the deft, intricate illustrations: these beauties glow off the page. The fact that they are black and white brings no diminishment to their sheer luminosity. The delight is that the illustrations are generous and consuming: they drape and envelope every page.

The end matter provides questions, much like those provided to literary novels for adult book clubs. And notably, the book has an environmental/healthy habitat subtext perfectly suited for young readers’ comprehension.

Is it too early to declare a masterpiece? Not here.

What do you say teachers, parents and writers? Use the comment below and let’s chat….

Secret Agents Jack & Max Stalwart: Book 1

stalwart cover

Secret Agents Jack and Max Stalwart: Book 1

The Battle for the Emerald Buddha: Thailand

By Elizabeth Singer Hunt, Illustrations by Brian Williamson

 

Published by: Weinstein Books (July 25, 2017)

Available in: paperback, Kindle, audible

At the time of this review there were two books in the Secret Agents Jack & Max Stalwart series. There are a number of related books in The Secret Agent Jack Stalwart series and The Secret Agent Training Manual series.

 

Power punch.

Secret Agents Jack & Max Stalwart is a new series that wastes no time pulling kids into an adrenaline-filled, contemporary, criminal-and-detective caper that is relevant, educational, and exhilarating. With art history, geography, and social studies throughout, it’s a bit like hiding vegetables in pizza—both parents and kids will be happy.

Author Singer Hunt has proven she knows the secret code to page-turning intrigue in children’s writing. Her previous series, with the older brother from this series as the protagonist, has an impressive sales history and was serialized by BBC Radio. The author keeps things simple while imbuing the text with current references and fast-paced action. Her characters use cool new accessories like a burner cell phone that can’t be traced by police and the grill a young criminal wears on his teeth. And yet, the prose is straightforward, with short sentences and relatively simple vocabulary.

The illustrations by Brian Williamson, unassuming black & white drawings, are edgy enough to be current and bring a clean, forward motion to the page.

I love that the boys, both good and bad, are powerful, independent, and free to make big mistakes and serious contributions. These kids are shown respect by the author. Exciting story components, like tigers, boat escapes, and subterfuge, keep the story moving with ingenuity and pace. In solving the crime, the protagonists show cleverness and daring (and a funny bit of comedy), but they’re also on a vacation with their parents. So although this particular story is unlike what most kids experience, it’s easy to see a connection with other nine- and 12-year-olds.

There are a number of terrific additional content pages, with a map, glossary, explanation of Thai facts, and more. A small gripe, I don’t like that they’re placed in the front of the book, which makes it feel crowded. Also, the typeface is a bit hard to read. But these are minor critiques in an otherwise excellent, daring-duo adventure sure to excite kids—especially boys—into the world of reading.

What do you say teachers, parents, and writers? Use the comment below and let’s chat….