Shirley and Jamila’s Big Fall
Gillian Goerz’s previous book, Shirley and Jamila Save Their Summer, introduced the intrepid detective and her devoted friend and storyteller. Shirley and Jamila’s Big Fall goes further in loosely adapting an actual Sherlock Holmes story. Blackmailer Charles Augustus Milverton here becomes school bully Chuck Milton. He’s class president, and he trades in secrets students don’t want to reveal.
Shirley and Jamila debate how far they are willing to go to stop Chuck from blackmailing their classmates. In addition, Jamila is pondering the nature of friendship. She and Shirley have little in common, and while playing basketball, Jamila meets another girl whose background and interests are closer to hers.
That allows for some important lessons about friendship in addition to the suspense of watching the two girls work to stop Chuck. Goerz does an amazing job creating the perfectly smarmy villain, seemingly untouchable and oh-so-punchable. The storytelling is remarkable, easy to read but still emotional and evocative.
I very much appreciated how the author says in her acknowledgements, referring to how Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories reflect the biases of his time, “it’s our job as readers to delight in the good, name the bad, and reject the terrible… Do all of your reading with an open heart and a detective’s discerning eye.”
I hope we see more of Shirley and Jamila. They make a great team, and an excellent modernization of a classic friendship.