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The Big Splash

The Big Splash

4.6 13
by Jack D. Ferraiolo

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Matt Stevens narrates this story of how he got sucked into his school's "organization," a mafia-like syndicate run by seventh grader Vincent "Mr. Biggs" Biggio. Matt works to preserve his integrity while avoiding the "Outs," the group of kids who've been publicly humiliated by one of Vinny's Super Soaker-wielding henchmen.
NARRATED by Sean Schemmel


Matt Stevens narrates this story of how he got sucked into his school's "organization," a mafia-like syndicate run by seventh grader Vincent "Mr. Biggs" Biggio. Matt works to preserve his integrity while avoiding the "Outs," the group of kids who've been publicly humiliated by one of Vinny's Super Soaker-wielding henchmen.
NARRATED by Sean Schemmel

Editorial Reviews

Rich Cohen
As in any proper noir, the story is marked by twists and turns, and the writing is cynical and tough, riddled with the sort of hard-boiled jargon you expect from a B movie…much of the thrill of this novel—and it is entertaining and thrilling—comes from its vision of a world in which kids play all the adult roles: they run the mobs, write the articles, chase the killers, haunt the (kid-owned) saloons, punish the (kid-committed) crimes. It's a kiddy cocktail kind of place, reminiscent, if anyone other than me remembers, of the Scott Baio vehicle "Bugsy Malone," in which the kid gangsters were blasted with machine guns that shot globs of whipped cream.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

The seventh-grader version of a Raymond Chandler PI, Matt Stevens coolly navigates the mean streets (okay, the mean hallways) of Franklin Middle School in a first novel with an ingenious premise: junior high noir. Matt's classmate, the once-bullied Vinny Biggio, commands a whole "organization," complete with hit men, in this case boys and girls who use loaded squirt guns, stealth attacks and their peers' predictable responses (choruses of "Jimmy peed his pants!") to ensure their targets' permanent and total ostracism. The plot has to do with the spectacular takedown of one Nicole Finnegan, aka Nikki Fingers, the school's most feared "trigger-girl," that is, until her recent retirement from Vinny's operation. Just who ordered the hit on Nikki, and why? Twists and curve balls keep readers guessing; extended jokes like one about a petty thief's desperate need for cash ("On the surface, Peter was a happy-go-lucky model student, but underneath, he had a dirty little secret: He was a Pixy Stixer") will keep them laughing. With crisp prose and surprisingly poignant moments, Ferraiolo's debut entertains on many levels. Ages 10-14. (Sept.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
KLIATT - Claire Rosser
"Let me clue you into something, kid…Justice is a snack," I said. "You get justice, and five minutes later you realize you're still hungry. Revenge, on the other hand, is a full meal." We are talking about middle school social relationships here. Matt is a detective, hired to solve mysteries. The power is in the hands of Vincent "Vinny Biggs" Bigglo; the victim is Nikki Fingers, and it is Matt's assignment to find out who took down Nikki. With a squirt gun. In middle school. This is Ferraiolo's first novel for YAs, and he has developed and written the TV show WordGirl for PBS. He's great at moving the action along and providing comic book characterizations and humor. Each character is more devious and intelligent than most of us, regardless of age. The resolution of the story is a shocker that makes sense but comes out of nowhere—Ferraiolo has taken us down, in a matter of speaking. Good fun, and the comic-book style cover will attract readers. Reviewer: Claire Rosser
VOYA - Victoria Vogel
This fabulous mystery will have teens laughing and racing to get to the last page. Matt Stevens is a seventh grade private eye with no shortage of incidents to investigate at Franklin Middle School. When the school's star prankster, Nicole "Nikki Fingers" Finnegan, is foiled by her own prank of squirting people with cat pee, the school is in shock. Matt is hired by Vincent "Vinny Biggs" Biggio to track down the culprit responsible for putting Nikki on "The Outs." The suspects are endless because everyone has a reason to hate Nikki; however, Matt finds himself hitting dead ends and wonders if he is being used. Readers will enjoy this funny mystery, written in the spirit of classic noir detective novels of the 1930s and 1940s. Everyone has a catchy nickname, and the witty banter is endless. The editor of the school newspaper is Matt's go-to person for leads. Readers will love Matt, a hard-working teen with a good heart who wants more than anything to make some extra money to help out his mom. His father disappeared mysteriously when he was five, leaving only a puzzling code as a clue, adding a dark element to the story that leads to an exciting conclusion. Some elements of the plot are unbelievable. Despite these-a lack of adult involvement and the complete trust that Matt's mother places in him-it is a great whodunit that mystery lovers are sure to consume. Some mild profanity might make it inappropriate for sixth graders. Reviewer: Victoria Vogel
School Library Journal

Gr 6-8

Matt Stevens is a seventh-grade Sam Spade who attends a middle school with an organized crime ring run by Vinny Biggs and his goons. Biggs traffics in forgeries, stolen exams, and candy, and has his competition regularly put in the "Outs" with humiliating water-pistol stains to the pants. A kid in the Outs is outcast for life-so when Nikki Fingers, Biggs's most-feared former hit woman, is taken down by an unseen assailant, Matt is hired by both her sister, Jenny, and Biggs himself to find the culprit. The result is a punchy, clue- and twist-filled plot that falls somewhere between Bruce Hale's "Chet Gecko" (Harcourt) and Robert Cormier's The Chocolate War (Knopf, 1974). Ferraiolo cleverly adapts hard-boiled whodunit roles to a slightly cartoonish middle school arena (Joey "the Hyena" is framed for the crime; Katie Kondo is the vigilant hall monitor chief; Jimmy Mac heads the school paper; Sal Becker runs a root-beer version of a dive bar in his toolshed). Matt's strained relationship with Kevin, a former best friend who's now working for Biggs, brings depth to his character, as do his crushes on both Jenny and Kevin's sister. An intriguing personal mystery involving Matt's father, who disappeared years earlier, remains unsolved by the end of the book, and Matt's mother has secrets yet to tell. Well paced, funny, and suspenseful, with some real commentary on bullying and mob mentality, this book will have fans eagerly awaiting the next installment in this faux noir detective series.-Riva Pollard, Prospect Sierra Middle School, El Cerrito, CA

Kirkus Reviews
Welcome to Franklin Middle School, where a junior gang of petty thieves and mobsters shakes kids down and humiliates them with water guns. Seventh-grader Matt Stevens, the class detective, is hired by fellow middle-schooler Vinny Biggs (something of a pint-sized Godfather) to recover a lost trinket from Nikki "Fingers," one of the fastest shots in school. Nikki has decided to go straight because her younger sister has entered the school. This knock-off noir kicks in when Nikki, about to hand over the charm to Matt, is "taken out"-soaked in a place to make it look like she's had an accident. This humiliation, a highly visible and common practice, immediately turns victims into social outcasts. Matt's detective instincts tell him that Vinny may have set him up, and he sets out to learn who was really behind this act. Matt Stevens may turn out to be a bankable franchise: His first-person present-tense narration carries in it echoes of Marlowe, and the simple plot makes some crafty twists and turns as it goes along. (Fiction. 9-11)

Product Details

Abrams, Harry N., Inc.
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

Read an Excerpt

An excerpt from the big splash


Vincent Biggs’s table was in the back right corner of the caf, strategically chosen for its view of the entire room. He was using his meaty hands to delicately eat a salad too green and fresh to have been gotten from the cafeteria. Sitting to his left was his right-hand man, Kevin Carling, eating potato chips one at a time, wiping the salt from his fingers after each one.


I crossed my arms and waited for Vinny to acknowledge my arrival, but he kept right on eating his salad. I checked my watch. My lunch period was slipping away. I cleared my throat too loud and too long to be authentic. “That’s doing wonders for your figure,” I said, nodding toward Vinny’s salad.


Vinny smiled in spite of himself. He looked at me. “A fat joke? Matthew, I expected better of you.”


“I guess getting manhandled makes me cranky.”


He shrugged, then dabbed the corners of his mouth with a napkin.


“Did you call me here just to watch you eat?” I asked. “Not that it isn’t fascinating.”


“Not quite,” he said. “Are you still for hire, or did things change over the summer?”


“I’m still a private detective, if that’s what you mean.”


“Excellent. I have a job for you.”


I stood up in a hurry. “Thanks, but no thanks. Not being one of your lackeys helps me sleep at night.”


“Matthew, why the hostility? I thought we got along.”


“We used to get along. Now we coexist.”


“Well, then let me put it to you this way . . . you were one of the few people who stood up for me before I attained my current position. I always felt like I should do you a favor somehow, so—”


“Whoa,” I said, “the people you do favors for either land in detention or end up getting popped. How about just a thank you and a hearty handshake?”


“How about a thank you, a hearty handshake, and twenty dollars?”


My mouth snapped shut. Twenty bucks was a lot of money. I mean, there’s stuff I wouldn’t do for twenty bucks, but the list was pretty short.

Meet the Author

Jack D. Ferraiolo grew up in southern Connecticut and still considers middle school to be the toughest time of his life.  He currently lives in northern Massachusetts with his wife, Teryse, and daughter, Emily.  He has been writing and editing for television animation for close to ten years.  He recently developed, and currently writes for WordGirl on PBS, for which he won an Emmy.  The Big Splash is his first novel.

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The Big Splash 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
Robin_Brande More than 1 year ago
I adore this book. Clever from beginning to end. First, the idea: a noir detective story, a la "The Big Sleep," set in middle school. And the world these characters inhabit is complete: the detective, the case to solve, the kingpin, his lackies, the swell girl--even the neighborhood "bar" where they can all hang out (I won't ruin what it actually is, because it's one of the many ingenious touches throughout this ingenious book). Not only is the story flat-out funny and yet also sweet when it comes to family and friend relationships, the writing itself is first rate. There were so many choice phrases I had to go back and reread, just to savor them. I finished this book a few days ago, and have already recommended it to at least ten people. Boys will love it, girls will love it, grown men and women will love it. HIGHLY RECOMMEND.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was very funny book and the authir must've made a huge effort to make this book because it's really goodm but it left me wanting more. I also suggest the book sidekick. Its just as funny as the big splash - wait no. It is more funny and its just plain better.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
JUSTYN_F More than 1 year ago
Wow this is a great book...this is my favorite book now .......dairy of a wimpy kid better step up
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
slimikin More than 1 year ago
I'm a big fan of hard-boiled detective stories, so when I saw The Big Splash---the first one of that sort that I've ever seen written for a juvenile audience---I really, really wanted to read it. After all, where else but in middle school will you find the situation so ideal for the noir-style mystery? And Jack D. Ferraiolo includes just about all the elements of the genre: there's an organized crime boss, bully boys, assassins, dangerous dames, a story-hungry reporter, and the law, represented by the orange sash of a hall monitor, of course. I really enjoyed the combination---and the mystery---but I'm not so sure The Big Splash will hold the interest of its intended juvenile audience. After all, how much fun is it to read a book written in Humphrey Bogart's voice when you don't even know who Humphrey Bogart is? There are also a few more adult themes hovering behind the story---the relationship between the hero's mom and his best friend's married dad, for example. Perhaps a juvenile reader won't think anything about that detail, but I'm more inclined to err on the side of caution and recommend The Big Splash to a slightly older audience, just in case.
Firebolt More than 1 year ago
Okay, I wasn't totally convinced with the story plot at first. The thought of somebody wetting another child's pants.... It seemed kind of childish, immature. But I do like a good detective book so I gave it a try. I'm glad I did!!  The main character Matt Stevens is the kind of character that readers will instantly like: brilliant, comical, sassy, compassionate. But unlike other characters,  Matt Stevens does have his flaws. I really liked that Jack D. Ferraiolo didn't portray the main character as this perfect role model because we all know that  reality isn't like that. Matt Stevens felt like a real person to me because of his flaws.                   After getting used to the idea of kids humiliating other kids by wetting their pants, I found the middle school mob very comical! Kids with water guns, placing bets,  selling under the table candy, blackmailing.. oh my! Jack D. Ferraiolo somehow spends these notorious actions into a comical idea. I enjoyed this book thoroughly but I cannot give it a five star rating due to the fact that it took a hundred pages to convince me that "The Big Splash" was worth a read. So forget that the whole concept seems childish and indulge on Franklin's middle school mob.... because you'll never know when your going to be put in the Outs.     
Bwitchd3 More than 1 year ago
BRILLIANT! Seriously, this book is pure genius. Adults will laugh out loud, children will devour the story, and everyone goes home happy. The most genius part about this idea is that the kids in the book take themselves seriously. There’s no winking at the audience, no subtle phrasing to show that forged hall passes aren’t that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things, and no sense that these kids realize how much scarier the world can be. Ferraiolo touches on some big issues for this age group including bullying, peer pressure, fitting in, and finding your own way. The dialogue snaps like a wet towel in the locker room, and the story isn’t dumbed down for the audience. There are twists and turns that even the adults won’t see coming. This is truly a sophisticated debut novel for all ages.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
"The Frank" may seem like a typical middle school, but it's actually run by Vinny Biggs and his gang. Need a stolen exam? Or want a sugar high? You'll have to go through Vinny. Cross Vinny, and you'll be facing one of his "hired assassins."

Vinny's "hired assassins" hold your social life fate in their hands. These assassins hide water guns, and with one quick shot you'll look like you peed your pants, face social humiliation, and immediately are put in "the outs."

Nikki Fingers used to be the fastest and most feared shooter at "The Frank," but at the beginning of seventh grade decides for a fresh start. But when Nikki is taken out, seventh grade detective Matt Stevens is hired. Could it have been her former boss, Vinny? The boy who had a crush on her? Or one of the many students at "The Frank" with a reason to hate Nikki? Matt only has a week to find out or he might find himself in "the outs" as well.

I can't say enough good things about this book! It's wonderfully written in a clever noir style that kept me laughing and guessing all night. It reads just like an old pulp detective novel and includes many of the characters you would expect to be there - the mob boss, the hired guns, the detective, the girl crush - only this time they're in sixth and seventh grade. At times it reminded me of one of my favorite old movies, Bugsy Malone, in which kids play the gangsters.

There were so many things sprinkled in this story that made me smile. The kids who would do anything for a pixy stick rush, the frazzled newspaperman, and the kid-owned sandwich shop all added to the style, and I felt like I really was transported back into one of those old pulp detective novels.

The mystery had plenty of twists and turns and kept me guessing and second-guessing who did Nikki in. The dialogue is witty and snappy and is full of humor.

Although the setting is middle school, readers who have gotten through their middle school years are sure to enjoy THE BIG SPLASH, as well. Fans of great detective novels or gangster stories should add this one to their reading pile!

I'm looking forward to reading more from Jack D. Ferraiolo - and hope that Matt Stevens is on another case soon!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is very interesting and is full of different personalities. In some scenes, this book really twists and turns. Great book overall!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago