A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Detective's Assistant is a funny, history-filled novel from Kate Hannigan based on the true story of the first female detective in history, Kate Warne, and her imagined relationship with a long-lost niece, 11-year-old orphan Nell. Together, as the United States approaches civil war, they solve crimes as undercover detectives. Though themes of loss and death, alleged murder, and thievery permeate the novel, it's a stunning, fast-paced yarn that champions smarts, problem-solving, women, and the importance of family. Great role models for girls.
What's the story?
When Cornelia Warne arrives at her Aunt Kitty's house looking for a place to live, she meets a no-nonsense, gruff woman who has every intention of placing the child in a nearby orphanage. But Cornelia -- whom Aunt Kitty quickly renames Nell -- slowly convinces Aunt Kitty that her street smarts are of use to Kitty's work as the first female detective for the famous Pinkerton Detective Agency. Together, they solve crime after crime through quick, fearless thinking, while Nell transforms from a dirty street urchin into an educated, poised young lady and Nell uncovers some poignant truths about the family she lost and the family she's gained.
Is it any good?
THE DETECTIVE'S ASSISTANT blends action, high ideals, real history, and heart into one fast-paced read. Here, a young woman finds an unlikely mentor in her stern aunt, who inspires in her a drive and ambition she might never have known. Though readers will become engaged with the story of real-life female detective Kate Warne and the events that led up to the Civil War, there also are some messy, nice ideas about what family really means and how important it is for girls to build a skill set and solve problems on their own.
History lovers will find lots to dig into here, and adventure fans will enjoy real tests of courage for the two headstrong female protagonists, as well as good humor and the very reassuring idea that we can often make a great family out of the one we've got.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about The Detective's Assistant's portrayal of women in the 1860s. Is it common for women to be detectives? What makes Kate and Nell good at it? What does Nell learn about her potential as a woman from the experience that's unique to the era?
The Detective's Assistant presents an interesting question about family: Is it the people you choose or the people you're stuck with? And what does Nell conclude about the nature of family in the end?
What does Aunt Kitty teach Nell about problem-solving and education? How is this different from the way women were educated during the Civil War?
- Author: Kate Hannigan
- Genre: Historical Fiction
- Topics: Adventures, Friendship, Great Girl Role Models, History, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
- Publication date: April 7, 2015
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 368
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Audiobook (abridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
Themes & Topics
Browse titles with similar subject matter.
For kids who love strong girls and historical novels
Our editors recommend
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.