By Awnali Mills
Another new book that I picked up lately is Howard Wallace, P.I. by Casey Lyall. Howard is a kid sized version of a hard-boiled detective. Philip Marlowe and Sam Spade are his heroes. His first person narration is filled with their lingo and style. Naturally, this predilection for talking like someone from the 20’s and 30’s (and other things) makes him an outcast. It doesn’t, however, stop his classmates from hiring him to solve their problems.
Enter the new girl, Ivy.
Ivy jumps into Howard’s world with both feet, demanding that he make her his partner. She’s decided that she needs a friend, and so does Howard, and that she’s just the person for the job. She thinks he’s interesting, and she doesn’t even bat an eye at Howard’s personification of his bicycle, Old Blue or his bathrobe-turned-trench coat. But when they’re called upon to solve a nasty case of blackmail in the student council, will detecting the blackmailer get them kicked out of school?
I enjoyed this book much more than I thought I would. It isn’t just a light-hearted mystery. Lyall has some really powerful things to say about the importance of friendship, both having it and losing it. I loved that Howard was confident enough in himself to do the unusual thing. He’s not in the cliques? Fine. He’ll follow his interests, and to heck with everyone else. Howard is smart, with a wry sense of humor, and Ivy is a perfect sidekick. I could totally picture him in his brown bathrobe, leaning a hip against his lopsided desk, cocking his head and saying, “You see, there was this dame…”
Put this book into the hands of 3-5th graders who enjoy mysteries, friendship stories, or who enjoy tales of outsiders.