Shirley & Jamila save their summer time from Gillian Goerz

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Shirley & Jamila are an odd couple who learn a lot about friendship while solving neighborhood crimes.

Shirley & Jamila save their summer from Gillian Goerz. Penguin Random House, 2020, 221 pages.

Reading level: Intermediate, 8-10 years

Recommended for: 8-12 years

Jamila Waheed and her family are new to the neighborhood and relatively new to the west, having immigrated to Canada about five years ago. Jamila recently discovered her love for basketball, but Ammi has other ideas for the summer: Science Camp! Big brother Farooq attended the same camp and didn't love it so any alternative would be preferable. Nobody shows up until Jamila meets Shirley Bone at a neighborhood yard sale. The two girls seem to get along, which is strange because it is Shirley. . . different. She is extremely intelligent and empathetic, but she doesn't know simple things like conversation. Still, Jamila is intrigued and later delighted when Shirley proves to be the key to leaving science camp. It is only when the girls hang out for a few days – Jamila happily shoots tires – that Shirley's true talent is revealed. She is a detective!

Their first case together is The Missing Gecko's Affair. But the story becomes much more than that. It's about moral responsibility (especially lies), ulterior motives (e.g. helping people to be satisfied) and rationalizing bad actions. But above all friendship. "What makes us friends?" Jamila wonders when she's tired of playing Shirley's Holmes the eternal Watson. Her mother gives a hint: Allowing the girls to hang out together was an experiment "to see if they can learn something from each other that none of the day camps could". (Unstructured time – what a concept!) Both girls have something to learn, and the strength of one can teach the weakness of the other.

In some graphic novels, the artwork doesn't match the story, but here they complement each other. The story never gets stuck, the characters are well developed and very multicultural, and the bottom line is satisfactory. When more of Shirley and Jamila's secrets are on the horizon, bring them with you.

Overall rating: 4.25 (of 5)

  • World view / moral value: 3.5
  • Artistic / literary value: 5


  • There is slightly vulgar language regarding someone doing a # 2 in the pool. In addition, the word "shit" is exchanged between two fighting siblings.
  • A character has two mothers, but only refers to both once. The rest of the time it's "my mother". The unusual circumstance of this character leads to an overprotective of the parents and actually shows, if one is careful, why it might be good to have a father.

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