Creepy Crawly Crime (Joey Fly, Private Eye #1)
By Aaron Reynolds
Illustrated by Neil Numberman
Henry Holt
ISBN: 9780805082425
Grades 2-4
In Stores April 14, 2009

Just ask A Tribe Called Quest, who’s 1993 jazz-inspired The Low End Theory is lauded as a hip-hop masterpiece – paying tribute can be a successful route to take. New series Joey Fly, Private Eye attempts to follow suit. A graphic novel detective story that pays homage to (and spoofs) classic crime tales at every turn, Creepy Crawly Crime is made for young readers who enjoy their noir with a heavy dose of levity.

Joey Fly is a detective that’s seen it all. Having solved crimes of all shapes and sizes, there isn’t much that surprises the private eye. When a wet behind the ears scorpion named Sammy Stingtail comes on the scene, asking to be the detective’s assistant, Fly takes on the youngster and gets more than he bargained for. Soon an investigation is afoot (the theft of a diamond pencil box), and Sammy proves to be more of a hindrance than a help. It’s a difficult assignment for Joey Fly, who must solve a crime of jealousy and keep his new assistant from ruining everything.

You’ve gotta admit – the author certainly picks a style and runs with it here. Puns, similes, and metaphors are everywhere. Fools are “one ant short of a picnic”. Crime inhabits the city “like a one-winged fly on a fifty-cent swatter”. Things are more tense “than an ally cat at a flea market”. I could go on. Some work well, others induce some head scratching. The overall success of this style will depend on who’s reading.

The pen and ink illustrations ably move the story along. When it’s dark, various shades of blue are used to set the mood. When Joey Fly and Sammy Stingtail are out in the sun, sepia tones are used. This limited color palate works well and enhances the “classic crime story” atmosphere.

The world created is well-realized. Elements of the outdoors (trees, plants, swampland, etc.) are incorporated into an urban setting to create a city inhabited entirely by insects.The 8×10 size and uncomplicated panel layouts make for smooth reading.

An encouraging start to a new series. Many young readers will welcome Creepy Crawly Crime with open arms.

Find this book at your local library with WorldCat.