Friday Barnes, Girl Detective
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Friday Barnes, Girl Detective is the first book of the U.S. version of a multivolume Australian boarding-school mystery series. Heroine Friday is a brilliant, geeky, take-charge 11-year-old heroine whose snarky remarks and off-the-wall detective work especially appeal to smart, independent-minded kids. The book's vocabulary is best for proficient readers, as its gleeful use of academic terms, literary references, and plain old big words are part of the fun. The cases Friday solves range from diamond heists and wildlife smuggling to disappearing homework; she threatens a bully with bodily harm if he messes with her friend, and the youthful crime-solvers are briefly kidnapped, but little real harm befalls anyone. Numerous references to animal poop, which figures in the solution to one of the crimes. Comic-book artist Phil Gosier's plentiful black-and-white illustrations bring the quirky cast of characters to life. Characters appear diverse, but there's no mention of ethnic differences.
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What's the Story?
At 11, Friday Barnes, youngest child of a family of physics professors, has more or less raised herself and acquired quite an education by reading all the books in her parents' library. In the process, she's perfected the art of going unnoticed, which has quite a few upsides, including getting to consume a nearly unlimited amount of chocolate and detective stories, which she likes much better than physics. When she gets a $50,000 reward for recovering a stolen diamond, she decides to invest in her future by spending it on a year at the nation's best -- and priciest -- boarding school ("If they operate on a profit motive, the PE teachers will accept bribes, so that I am never forced to run cross-country again," she explains). She's scarcely arrived before her detective skills come in really handy, as her wealthy classmates are happily willing to part with almost any amount of cash if she can find a missing clock, retrieve a lost homework assignment, or otherwise avert disaster -- and hey, she likes it there and is already thinking about next year's tuition. Plus there's the insanely good-looking Ian, who was the smartest kid in school till she came along. Also, there are nighttime shenanigans in the swamp. Maybe even a yeti. All promising territory for FRIDAY BARNES, GIRL DETECTIVE.
Is It Any Good?
This fun romp from Down Under has boarding school shenanigans, sinister goings-on, a brilliant, socially clueless detective, and a posse of cartoonishly over-the-top rich kids. First published in Australia in 2014, Friday Barnes, Girl Detective has funny, cartoon-like illustrations by comic artist Phil Gosier. Between the academic references, pop-culture shout-outs, and fondness for big words, this probably isn't the book for reluctant readers, but it's a likely hit with kids who revel in clever language and ridiculous situations. Like this one, explaining Friday's early start in staying unnoticed:
"On the due date, [Mrs. Barnes] was committed to speak at a conference in Bern, Switzerland, about the possibility of the International Super Collider opening a black hole and destroying the planet. For the first time in her adult life, Mrs. Barnes saw her ironclad grasp on order and reason begin to slip.
"Mr. Barnes was, however, a man of action. That is, if the action did not require him to leave his office or get up from his desk. He Googled 'Bern' and 'maternity hospitals.' They discovered that there was one just two miles from the conference center. Mr. and Mrs. Barnes both breathed a sigh of relief. From that moment on, life proceeded exactly as if Friday did not exist."
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about boarding-school stories. Why do you think they're so popular? Which others do you know? Are they always funny?
Some people like to call attention to themselves, while others try to stay unnoticed. What do you think? Can you think of situations where it might work better to do one or the other?
It sounds pretty cool to have your classmates give you hundreds of dollars to solve their problems -- but what could go wrong?
- Author: R. A. Spratt
- Illustrator: Phil Gosier
- Genre: Mystery
- Topics: STEM, Friendship, Great Girl Role Models
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
- Publication date: January 19, 2016
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 272
- Available on: Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: August 7, 2022
Our Editors Recommend
Imaginative illustrated tale of quirky friends' adventures.
Murder Is Bad Manners
Clever writing, characters shine in boarding-school mystery.
The Mysterious Benedict Society
Suspenseful mystery with a Lemony Snicket vibe.
For kids who love strong heroines and mystery tales
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