I felt like a bit of an insider when I read Leslie Margolis' latest chapter book, Girl's Best Friend: A Maggie Brooklyn Mystery because it is set in my home neighborhood of Park Slope, Brooklyn. There was a tendency on my part to feel a bit smug and nod knowingly when reading descriptions of strollers littering the sidewalks, a plethora of baby boutiques, triplets being pushed around in gigantic carriers and even just identifying neighborhood landmarks.
Of course this kind of insider knowledge is not necessary in order to enjoy this book. What is necessary are a good plot, charming, personable characters, and -- at least for a mystery -- a few juicy red herrings, all of which Girl's Best Friend supplies. Furry friends are optional, but this book has them in spades, too.
Maggie Brooklyn Sinclair, who has a twin brother (another Park Slope phenomenon: the overabundance of fraternal twins!), has an after school job as a dog walker, a job she keeps secret from her parents. But when dogs around the neighborhood start to go missing she adds another career to her resume: private eye.
There are a few nice city-living details such as how parents make use of cramped urban living by turning one bedroom into two, living in a multi-family brownstone, and (my favorite) including as a character, the quintessential Brooklyn freelance Dad. But Margolis doesn't throw these details in just for fun, they turn out to be integral to moving the story forward.
I don't have tween or teenage girls, but I used to be one (a long time ago) and this is just the kind of book to appeal to such an audience: a smart heroine asserting her independence, loyal sidekicks, a former BFF, secrets, and just the right amount of romance for a 12 year old. I loved reading it and it would make a great Christmas present. The flag on the front declaring "A Maggie Brooklyn Mystery" suggests there will be a sequel and you will be sure I will pick it up, despite my old lady status.
Plus, the book holds this universal truth:
I haven't told Sonya [that I like Milo] yet, either even though we've been good friends since the beginning of sixth. I can't because of the unicorns. She's really into them and I have this theory: you can love unicorns or you can love boys, but you cannot love unicorn and boys.So true.
Visit the interactive Maggie Brooklyn Mystery website. Click on "explore" for a cool map of places in the book.
Read a more thorough plot based review at Kids Read.
Read about the evolution of the cover art.
Note: Usually I read the books to one or both of my boys, but not only was this book a bit advanced for a read aloud to a 5 year old, but I think it is the kind of book that is best enjoyed by tweens reading independently.