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….


Joe Sherlock Mysteries



By Dave Keane


Published by: HarperCollins (January 30, 2007)

Available in: paperback, library binding, Kindle, NOOK

At the time of this review there were six books in the Joe Sherlock series.



Elementary, my dear Watson.

Joe Sherlock, Kid Detective, Case #000004: The Headless Mummy is part of a winning mystery formula based on a love of legendary super sleuth, Sherlock Holmes. With fun additions like Baskerville Elementary and Baker Street, the inside jokes help carry the story to a very satisfactory ending.

Part of the reason author/illustrator Keane’s young Joe is such an endearing protagonist is his imperfect nature. Although able to use good common sense to solve the puzzle at the core of the book, Joe also has challenges that concern him. Like his difficulty in reading. And his difficulty in understanding big words or expressions. Even though he solves the mystery, Joe is not a know-it-all. Most sweet.

The book is also filled with truly quirky characters and plot points worthy of a good laugh out loud. There’s his sister Doreen, who’s really a disposable glove filled with water… which he sits on and breaks, fearing he’s wet his pants. His (real) sister, Hailey, is a comic delight, and things like a pancake that look like a TV host keep the humor rolling from page to page.

The entire book feels like a young boy’s journal: the typeface is sort of jolly, the illustrations are goofy and original, and the plot moves appropriately sideways just as it moves forward. At times the tone and point of view feel almost adult in tone, but this is not a criticism. It feels distinct and different from other chapter books, which fit the young Joe Sherlock like a good herringbone jacket.

It’s no mystery: Joe Sherlock is one cool chapter book series.

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