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.



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….





By Jane O’Connor, Illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser


Published by: HarperCollins (April 3, 2012)

Available in: paperback, hardcover, audible book, Kindle, NOOK

At the time of this review there were four books in the Fancy Nancy chapter book series.


Glitter and gloss.

Even in black and white, Fancy Nancy: Nancy Clancy, Super Sleuth seems to sparkle. It’s probably just a conditioned response to the hugely popular (and pervasive) Fancy Nancy brand. This is a good thing—it will draw young girls who love the character but have outgrown picture books into the brand’s chapter books.

From a writing perspective I don’t love this work. It is as expected: predictable and leans too heavily on the Nancy Drew brand, who’s current popularity is, I think, based more on nostalgia than quality or contemporary flavor.

But I do like much of the dialogue and story progression. It has the sweet feel of a child talking to herself during imaginary playtime. That’s authentic. There are also notable treatments of stealing, accidental actions and the consequences of each. So there’s some weight to this glitz, and that brings it’s own kind of bling.

Much of the action is centered on a mystery, complete with all the key ingredients a detective needs: secret codes the reader can break, a jeweled magnifying glass, disappearing ink and fingerprints. There’s also a trusty sidekick and über cool play clothes.

Nancy Clancy is escapist reading for the pink and sparkly set, and there’s no mystery why girls love it. They just do. Without thinking it through too much, this is one chapter book that hits that sweet spot.

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