Thursday, April 28, 2022

The Friendship Feature (The Jessie Files #1)

Deutsch, Stacia. The Friendship Feature (The Jessie Files #1)
April 26th 2022 by Albert Whitman & Company
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

In this new series related to The Boxcar Children, we concentrate on Jessie, who has decided that she needs time by herself in the boxcar, and also that she has given up investigating things. Of course, the first time she and her friend Charla hang out, a new boy, Daniel, in school (whom Charla likes) shows up to ask for help. His family runs an art gallery and supply store in town, and just when they were getting settled, they had a big order for five paintings. Daniel delivered the paintings, but left them at an abandoned looking diner, and picked up the check, which seemed odd, since most people use apps for money transfers. Of course, the check bounced. Since there was also a horrible storm that came through town and damaged the art store, he is very concerned for the family business and wants Jessie's help in trying to find the person who ordered the art. The whole town is doing fundraisers to help local businesses, and when Jessie decides to join the school newspaper, she thinks about doing an article about one group in school that is working on this as well. Lucinda has started a Girls with Goals club, and is very vocal about the group's efforts as well as her own success in selling a lot of chocolate bars, but something isn't quite right. Using Charla's computer skills, Jessie and Daniel work with her to try to figure out who is cheating local businesses out of money, and Jessie uses this information to write her article for the Greenfield Gabber.
Strengths: Like the new versions of Carolyn Keene's Nancy Drew franchise, this continuation of The Boxcar Children has a strong sense of nostalgia while also picking up topics that are of interest to a new generation of readers. Like the girls in Deutsch's Cinnamon Bun Besties or The Friendship Code, Jessie and Charla have a lot of interests and are very dedicated and serious about pursuing them. I liked that the whole town was invested in preserving the local businesses, and willing to put money towards helping them succeed. Jessie's grandfather shows up, but of course was young during the 1960s and not the 1890s! I loved that he had a former girlfriend who showed up as part of the story. We don't see a lot of Jessie's siblings, except for Benny, who is as annoying as always, but I have a feeling that we will see  more of them in future books. 
Weaknesses: I found it hard to believe that Daniel's family would have trusted him to deliver paintings that weren't paid for, and as a veteran of many, many fundraisers, that Lucinda would have also dropped off so many chocolate bars without payment. 
What I really think: This is a great length for young mystery readers, and more engaging than the 1990s Boxcar Children books I remember my children reading in elementary school. Definitely a good choice for readers who like clue oriented mysteries like Bowen's Soccer Trophy Mystery, Beil's Red Blazer Girls, or Margolis's Maggie Brooklyn Mysteries

Ms. Yingling

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