Spy Camp by Stuart Gibbs (Simon & Schuster, 2013, 322 pages, $15.99, ages 8-12)
If You Liked Harry Potter, . . . . Here’s Another New York Times Bestseller Series
Spy School books grab you with their enticing covers: the silhouette of a spy in a trench coat and hat. Spy Camp’s cover spy is wearing shorts, red flip-flops and is holding a fishing pole, against a green background of trees and grass.
Even the title sounds intriguing: it turns out the plot sounds very intriguing and does not disappoint: a nerdy junior high boy attends a secret CIA spy school, so secret even his parents don’t know about it – they think their Ben was recruited to attend a nerdy science school.
Think swimming and campfires and shorts and mess halls and cabins or tents - and then think again. This spy camp, however, is at an undisclosed location (read: secret) and the campers are trained in activities like Advanced Eavesdropping and Blending into a Crowd.
But, even before the "fun" can begin, our hero is sent a contract to join (or else!) the enemy spy organization SPYDER whose goals are antithetical to the CIA. So he is whisked away for his own protection (but by whom?)
A Modern Day Harry Potter
Ben lives in the Washington, DC, area – somewhere. The plots take place in current time and some of the place names are familiar: West Virginia, Winchester.
Instead of taking wizardry courses for six years, however, our spies study subjects like History of American Spying, Forensic Geology, and Disguises. But they have almost as much gadgetry as James Bond*.
Can you guess what Ben’s secret power will turn out to be? Hint: it is so secret that even he is not aware of it. It is also not quite fully developed yet.
Writing Style by an Edgar Finalist
Each chapter begins with title, location, date, and time, and rushes into explosives and missiles and even, being a book about junior high – about girl-boy and boy-girl crushes. And, of course, the kids save the day in spite of all the bumbling adults – just as a book for kids should.
There is enough in Spy Camp that makes you want to read Spy School, the first in the series, so you can fill in the gaps, and then Evil Spy School, Spy Ski School and finally Spy School Secret Service.
Be careful: your child may just beg to attend a spy camp this summer!
Caveat: This title was checked out of a public library but the series was first seen several times in bookstore.
*Why did Gibbs write the Spy School series?
”This is honestly an idea I’ve had since I was around age seven. I saw my first James Bond movie and instantly started to imagine myself as James Bond’s son, Jimmy Bond (Double-O Six and a Half). I even wrote a Jimmy Bond story around that time: “The Kid With The Golden Water Pistol.” So I’ve known the idea of kid spies would be cool and funny for a very long time.”