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Jada Sly Artist & Spy
by Sherri Winston
Ten-year-old Jada Sly is an artist and a spy-in-training. When she isn’t studying the art of her idols—such as Jackie Ormes, the first-known African American cartoonist—she’s chronicling her spy training and other observations in her art journal.
Back home in New York City, after living in France for five years, Jada is ready to embark on her first and greatest spy adventure yet. She plans to scour New York City in search of her missing mother, even though everyone thinks her mom died in a plane crash. But Jada is certain her mom was a spy. With the stakes high and danger lurking around every corner, Jada will use one spy technique after another to unlock the mystery of her mother’s disappearance — some with hilarious results. After all, she’s still learning.
Jada is an interesting protagonist who isn’t afraid to take risks, especially if the risk will lead her to the truth about her mother. While Jada is a likable character, many readers will not be able to relate to Jada because she and her friends are rich kids who have a lot of uncommon opportunities, such as going to an expensive private school and having a famous chef teach them how to make pies. However, Jada and her friends are a fun group who work together to solve the mystery. Unfortunately, none of Jada’s friends are well developed and readers may quickly forget them.
Jada Sly Artist & Spy has an entertaining but complicated plot. As Jada and her friends investigate, Jada writes a list to help readers understand all the clues. Cute black, white, and red illustrations appear every three to thirteen pages. The illustrations will help readers visualize the characters, which is helpful since there are so many. The book’s format will appeal to many readers, but the complicated plot and the large cast of characters make Jada Sly Artist & Spy best for strong readers.
Since everyone thinks Jada’s mother died in a plane crash, no one believes Jada when she says her mother is still alive. The exciting conclusion reveals that Jada’s mother is a spy, who is hiding from evil men. In order to keep herself and her family safe, Jada’s mom cannot let others know that she is alive. However, many readers may find the conclusion disconcerting because Jada’s dad has a new girlfriend and Jada’s mom isn’t upset by this. Instead, Jada’s mom encourages Jada to accept the girlfriend and not to let anyone know she is alive.
Jada Sly Artist & Spy is a fast-paced mystery that will entertain readers while it shows the importance of friendship. Since Jada is grieving the loss of her mom, the book explores Jada’s grief; however, her mother’s sudden reappearance complicates the message. Mystery-loving readers that enjoy books that revolve around friendship should also read The Case of the Time-Capsule Bandit by Octavia Spencer and The Curious Cat Spy Club Series by Linda Joy Singleton
- Brooklynn invites Jada to martial arts practice. While there, Jada gets distracted, and then “a foot slammed into my face. Dozens of stars twinkled before my eyes before everything went black.” Brooklynn feels terrible about kicking Jada, who recovers fine.
- In the multi-chapter conclusion, there is a lot of fighting. When someone grabs Jada and covers her mouth, Jada “clamped my teeth on her finger, and then I bit down with all my might.” The girl lets Jada go and Jada “spun my leg around and connected with the side of her knee. . . Using all my force, I kicked upward, this time connecting with her nose.” Then Jada runs away.
- Two adults at the party, Mr. Highborne, and Mr. Cheswick, hear the scuffle and come running. Jada isn’t sure who to trust, but then Mr. Cheswick “spun and kicked Mr. Highborne so hard I heard the wind whoosh out of him.” Then Mr. Cheswick grabs Jada.
- Mr. Cheswick and his granddaughter try to take a computer chip away from Jada. When Jada’s rabbit bites the girl, she “stumbled, and her head knocked against the wall—hard. Then she dropped to the floor with a loud thump.” The girl isn’t seriously injured.
- An FBI agent dressed as an old woman jumps into the fight. The old lady kicked Mr. Cheswick in the stomach and he “went down.”
- Jada discovers that Mr. Cheswick is really a spy named Mr. Tillerson. The FBI agent tries to help Jada but “Mr. Tillerson stood suddenly and threw a wild punch. His blow connected with Agent Fox, hitting him in the thigh. Then Mr. Tillerson pulled CJ [Jada’s friend] in front of him like a shield.” During the struggle, Mr. Tillerson breaks his leg, but CJ is uninjured.
- When Mr. Tillerson tries to escape, Jada’s mom jumps in. Jada “bent low and swung the first rolling pin into his ankle. Right on the ankle bone. He screamed. I placed the other rolling pin under his foot. When he stepped down, he fell like a cartoon villain.” Eventually, Mr. Tillerson is arrested, and no one is seriously injured.
Drugs and Alcohol
- Heck is used once.
- A girl says her classmates are dweebs.
- Jada thinks that an adult is a creep.
- Several times, a woman exclaims, “Lawd, have merci.”
- Darn is used once.