The Big Splash by Jack D. Ferraiolo | NOOK Book (eBook) | Barnes & Noble
The Big Splash

The Big Splash

4.6 13
by Jack D. Ferraiolo

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The treacherous, hormone-soaked hallways of Franklin Middle School are the setting for this sharp, funny noir novel about tough guys and even tougher girls. "The Frank"is in the clutches of a crime syndicate run by seventh-grader Vinny "Mr. Biggs" Biggio, who deals in forged hall passes and blackmarket candy. Double-cross him and your number is punched by


The treacherous, hormone-soaked hallways of Franklin Middle School are the setting for this sharp, funny noir novel about tough guys and even tougher girls. "The Frank"is in the clutches of a crime syndicate run by seventh-grader Vinny "Mr. Biggs" Biggio, who deals in forged hall passes and blackmarket candy. Double-cross him and your number is punched by one of his deadly water gun-toting assassins. One hit in the pants and you are in "the Outs" forever. Matt Stevens is a proud loner with his own code of justice. He's avoided being pulled into Vinny's organization until now: Mr. Biggs has offered him a job he can't resist, even if it means bringing down one of his oldest friends. 

Nominated for an Edgar Award in 2009, The Big Splash revitalizes the noir novel while delivering a terrific, addictive mystery that crackles with wit and excitement.

Awards and praise for The Big Splash 

2009 Edgar Award nomination 

"Jack Ferraiolo shines a light on middle school and reveals what we've always suspected: It's a sinister place ruled by crime bosses and thugs. The Big Splash will make you laugh out loud." 
--Jeff Kinney, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Diary of a Wimpy Kid 

"Entertaining and thrilling."
--New York Times Book Review 

"An ingenious premise: junior high noir. . . . Twists and curve balls keep readers guessing; extended jokes will keep them laughing."
--Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Well paced, funny, and suspenseful, with some real commentary on bullying and mob mentality."
--School Library Journal 

"If middle school has an 'underworld,' this book is The Godfather and The Maltese Falcon all rolled into one. Better still, it's funny, and not just a little."
--Gordon Korman, author of Born to Rock

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

Amulet Paperbacks
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4 MB
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 is the author of The Big Splash. He grew up in southern Connecticut and lives in northern Massachusetts. As the head of development at a children's animation production company, he has developed and writes for WordGirl on PBS, for which he won an Emmy. Visit him online at

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