Spy Files: Spy School

Do you have what it takes to go undercover and discover the secret world of espionage?    

Spy Files: Spy School stealthily slips into the shadows, exposing different types of spies, the training techniques of the secret service, and the fake identities and disguises they use. Discover the grisliest methods of interrogation and the greatest tales of escape. Unmask the celebrity with vital information in World War II. Reveal how a CIA disguise expert helped six diplomats escape from a hostage crisis.    

Packed with case studies, photographic evidence, and mug shots, readers will learn about shaking a tail, spy training, double agents, identity exchange surveillance, black-bag operations, and more.   

Spy School uses a fun format that breaks up information into small, manageable parts. Each two-page spread changes topics and each page has only one to three short paragraphs, plus photo captions. Each page has illustrations such as historical photos, drawings, and mug shots. Plus, some pages have an infographic titled “Top Secret” that gives additional information on spying. While the format will appeal to many readers, the large font and short paragraphs don’t allow each topic to be explored in detail. 

Spy School will whet the reader’s appetites with a wide range of spy-related topics. However, some readers may be disappointed by the book’s brevity, since each topic is covered in seven or fewer sentences. However, if you want to get a quick look into the spy world to see if it is truly like a James Bond movie, then Spy School is the book for you. Because of the wide range of topics, Spy School would also be good if you’re browsing for a more specific topic for a research paper. Readers who want a fictional book on cracking codes, stealing secrets, and dodging bullets should also sneak into the library and grab a copy of Spy School #1 by Stuart Gibbs.  

Sexual Content 

  • None 

Violence 

  • Oleg Penkovsky was a double agent who was “interrogated and shot by the KGB.” 
  • KGB agent Ramon Mercader killed Joseph Stalin’s rival “with an ice pick.”  
  • An anti-Soviet Ukrainian was poisoned with “gas spray hidden in a newspaper.” 
  • During World War II, some spies were tricked. “One prisoner would be taken behind a truck and a shot fired. The other prisoner would become scared and talk. The trick was that the gun had only been fired at the ground.” 

Drugs and Alcohol 

  • In order to avoid being interrogated, “some spies carry deadly cyanide pills, to be used to prevent them breaking down under torture.” 

Language   

  • None 

Supernatural 

  • None 

Spiritual Content 

  • None 

Victor Dowd and the World War II Ghost Army

It’s a true story of deception: Meet the top-secret Ghost Army, a group of artists and sound engineers trained to fake out the Germans in World War II with inflatable rubber tanks and loudspeakers broadcasting the sound of marching troops. And meet real-life Sergeant Victor Dowd, who served in the fight for Normandy, through France, and across the Rhine.

It’s a mystery to solve:There are clues embedded in the story’s text and illustrations, and Spycraft materials come in an envelope at the beginning of the book. Now put on your spy thinking cap and find out what happened to Victor Dowd’s missing sketchbook. 

Unfortunately, Victor’s story lacks action and suspense. Since there is no dialogue, Victor and the other Ghost Army members are not developed, making them easily forgettable. Even though Victor is the narrator, readers will have a hard time connecting to him because he does not have a distinct voice. Plus, the action is discussed in the past tense, which eliminates the suspense. While there are many interesting facts about the Ghost Army, readers may have difficulty staying engaged in the book because of the bland storytelling. 

Despite the book’s flaws, the format is visually appealing. Every page has a graphic element, including pictures that are drawn in black, white, and red. Plus, most of the pages have a quote set apart from the other text. These quotes are printed in large fonts and help break up the text. The graphic elements are essential because hidden in the pictures and text are clues and codes. Readers will use a cipher wheel, a Morse code, and other methods to decipher Victor’s letters. 

Readers will enjoy using the spy tools and finding clues throughout the story. However, the lack of direction makes this task difficult. In addition, many of the clues are given by putting a red film over the pictures; while the clues are fun to look at, no code-breaking is involved. Since many of the clues are difficult to understand, adults may want to read the answer key that appears at the end of the book so they can assist young readers in finding and understanding the clues.  

Readers who are excited to try and uncover secret messages will enjoy testing their spycraft skills while reading Victor Dowd and the World War II Ghost Army. However, the lackluster story will only appeal to readers who are fans of history. If you’d like to learn more about the history of spying, sneak into the library and grab George Washington’s Spies by Claudia Friddell and Night of Soldiers and Spies by Kate Messner. 

Sexual Content 

  • None 

Violence 

  • After D-Day, Victor looks around the beach and sees “the casualties. Wounded men lay on the runway, waiting to be airlifted to medical units. Beyond them, Vic could see the bodies of soldiers who had lost their lives on the beach.” 
  • During one of the operations, the enemy fired on the unit. “The ground in front of them shook. It felt like an earthquake. The next shell flew over their heads and hit the truck behind them. Pieces of metal flew in every direction. . .” One member of the Ghost Army “was killed when his truck was hit by shrapnel. . . Fifteen other men were wounded. Some of them lost limbs.” The illustration shows a truck being blown up.

Drugs and Alcohol 

  • After setting up the fake tanks and guns, the ghost army went into the local bar and talked about their “fake” unit over beers. The illustration shows the men drinking beer. 

Language   

  • None 

Supernatural 

  • None 

Spiritual Content 

  • None 

Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy

Cammie is not over her breakup with Josh, and after the winter break, all she wants is for things to go back to normal. But her mother is keeping secrets, the East Wing of the school is closed off, and an unwelcome intruder on a Covert Operations assignment leaves Cammie and her friends on edge.

It should be mentioned that the Gallagher Academy is an all-girls spy school, so Cammie and her friends are less than prepared when it is revealed that an all-boys spy school exists and—even worse—some of those boys will be attending the Gallagher Academy in an exchange program. Suddenly, Cammie, Bex, Liz, and Macey find themselves at odds with their strange new classmates. Why are the boys really here? Why won’t any of them talk about their own school, Blackthorne? And is Zach just a boy spy on an innocent exchange program who happens to like Cammie, or is something more sinister at hand? When Cammie is blamed for a security breach at the mansion, she knows something is not right. But will Cammie and her friends discover the truth about their male counterparts in time to stop whatever nefarious schemes are underfoot?

Despite being a well-trained spy who could incapacitate a person in under eight seconds, Cammie remains a relatable and lovable character who embodies the awkwardness of a typical girl. Readers will fall in love with Cammie, who has impressive spy skills and yet is completely baffled by boys. At one point, Cammie thinks, “Boys! Are they always this impossible? Do they always say cryptic, indecipherable things?” Because the story is told from Cammie’s point of view, readers will get an inside look at her thoughts and feelings, which makes Cammie an endearing character. At times, Cammie’s jumbled emotions will make readers hurt along with her. Especially when Cammie sneaks off alone and wonders if “maybe crying is like everything else we do—it’s best if you don’t get caught.”

Luckily, Cammie has a group of friends that always has her back. Bex is fiercely loyal, while Liz’s optimistic outlook is a welcome relief. Macey adds a little humor with her boy translations. By the end of the book, readers will feel as if the Gallagher Girls are friends. However, that doesn’t mean that Zach is not a welcome addition to Cammie’s life. While his charm is confusing to Cammie, it’s hard not to fall in love with his tough-boy attitude.

Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy continues the series in a satisfying way, bringing back favorite characters from book one with the welcome addition of the Blackthorne boys. In typical Ally Carter style, Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy begins with suspense and leaves the reader turning pages until the very end. Through first-person narration, Carter creates a fun story full of relatable characters and explores teen romance in a wholesome way that is perfect for younger readers. If you haven’t bought the entire series yet, you will want to. Even though there are six books in the series, each book will have readers ready to jump back into the Gallagher Girls’ world.

Sexual Content

  • Zach leans in to kiss Cammie, but they are interrupted. “His hands were warm on the back of my neck; his fingers laced through my hair, and he tilted his head and he moved in. I closed my eyes. And I heard, ‘Oh my gosh! Cammie, is that you?’”
  • Zach kisses Cammie. “The last thing I expected was to feel his arms sliding around me, to sense the whole world turning upside down as Zach dipped me in the middle of the foyer and pressed his lips to mine.”

Violence

  • In P.E. class, Cammie “hauled off and kicked the heavy [punching] bag—hard—and it flew back and hit [Zach] in the stomach. For a second he stood there, doubled over, trying to catch his breath.”
  • Cammie and her friends find their teacher, who had been injured by a thief. “Our teacher fell into their arms. Blood stained the side of his face, and his voice was faint as he lay on the floor and said, ‘He got it.’”
  • Cammie reacts when Zach grabs her. “Without stopping to think, I stepped back into my attacker, tried to flip him over my head, but he countered his weight at that precise time, stopping my momentum.”
  • During what turns out to have been a test of their skills, the Gallagher Girls fight to stop a thief and his guards. “For a moment it seemed to be raining Gallagher Girls. All around me fists flew, kicks landed . . . I’d knocked a guard to the ground and was struggling with a Napotine patch . . . the next time I saw [Liz] she was jumping from the cab, landing on the back of a guard who had been chasing Eva.” The fight continues over four pages.

Drugs and Alcohol

  • Cammie remembers how her “mom gave Josh some tea that’s supposed to wipe a person’s memory blank” to make him forget what he knew about the Gallagher Academy.

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

 

Chester Keene Cracks the Code

Chester Keene takes great comfort in his routines. Afterschool Monday to Thursday is bowling. Friday, the best of days, is laser tag! But Chester has one very special secret—he gets spy messages from his dad. Chester thinks his father must be on covert government assignments, which is why Chester has never been able to meet him.

Then one day, Chester’s classmate Skye approaches him with a clue. They’ve been tasked with a complex puzzle-solving mission! Skye proves to be a useful partner and good company, even if her free-wheeling ways are disruptive to Chester’s carefully built schedule. As Chester and Skye get closer to their final clue, they discover the key to their spy assignment: they have to stop a heist! But cracking this code may mean finding out that things are not always what they seem. 

Chester is used to being alone. Nobody sits by him at lunch. Nobody sits by him on the school bus. And nobody helps him when Marc bullies him. His dad is the only person that Chester can talk to, but he’s never actually met his dad and they only communicate through emails. But in Chester’s greatest time of need, his dad goes silent. So, when a strange clue is left on his door, Chester is convinced that his dad is a spy in danger—and only Chester can help. When Skye approaches Chester with the other piece of the clue, the two are forced to work together even though Chester would prefer to solve the mystery on his own. 

Chester Keene Cracks the Code has a slow start, but once Skye jumps into the story, the story takes off on a fun hunt for clues. Even though Chester is a bit “difficult,” Skye doesn’t let his quirks chase her off. And soon, Chester discovers that he likes having Skye as a friend, even though she is impulsive. While the clues add mystery to the book, Chester and Skye’s developing relationship adds heart and teaches readers the value of friendship. Even though the story is written from Chester’s point of view, readers will be able to relate to Skye’s annoyance when Chester gets difficult. 

Throughout the hunt for clues, Chester thinks his father is leaving the clues. While Chester thinks about the need to solve the clues and help his father, there is no clear reason that explains why Chester believes his father is in danger. Because of this, Chester’s constant thoughts about his father’s danger become a bit tedious. However, many readers will relate to Chester’s feelings of abandonment and his deep desire to meet his father. Chester eventually learns that with or without his father, he is surrounded by people who love him, and that is enough.   

Even though Chester and Skye must solve the clues left for them, the clues are so specific to the characters that the readers don’t have a chance to solve the clues themselves. Despite this, the story contains enough mystery and adventure to keep readers interested. Plus, the story teaches the importance of friendship, family, and speaking up when being bullied. Chester realizes “people make mistakes. . . Perfect—it doesn’t exist.” Overall, Chester Keene Cracks the Code is a fun read that shows the importance of embracing the people in your life and accepting them for who they are. 

Sexual Content 

  • Chester’s mother is dating a man who stays the night at her house. Chester knows that “Mom and Christopher won’t come out of the bedroom until later.” 
  • Skye tells Chester that her dad might marry his girlfriend because he’s “over the moon. They’re all smoochy smoochy all the time.” 
  • After Christopher proposes to Chester’s mom, they kiss. Skye tells them, “Get a room.” 

Violence 

  • After winning a round of laser tag, Marc (the school bully) corners Chester. Marc punches Chester. “A flash of color bursts behind my eyelids. My ears ring with a tinkling sound, or maybe the force of my body being slammed into the change machine. . .” Chester gets a huge black eye. 
  • Marc is standing by Chester’s locker. When Chester approaches, Marc “tosses a casual punch at my shoulder. . . Only, his hand lands hard enough that it throws me off-balance, and my other shoulder collides with the bank of lockers.” Then, Marc grabs Chester. Marc “grips some combination of my shirt, my armpit skin, and my backpack strap, and with tremendous force, whips my entire body around him. . .” Chester ends up on his back “limbs sprawling, neck kinked.” Chester’s shoulders and neck hurt, and his shirt is ripped. The scene is described over two pages.   
  • Chester tells a story about a man who came into the bowling alley and “tried to rob Amanda [the owner] at knifepoint once. She hit him in the head with a bowling ball.” 
  • Four people rob an armored car. Two of the men have “guns raised, they charge on the truck. Boom. The guard flinches like he hit a wall. He grabs his neck, then slumps down.” 
  • When a guard falls, Chester thinks, “Is he dead? But there’s no blood. No terrible explosion. A tiny arrow sticks out of his neck.” 
  • When the robber sees Chester, he grabs him. “My shoulder pops as [he] binds my hands together behind my back. He uses something thin and smooth. It cuts into my skin.” 
  • Skye jumps in to help Chester. A female robber grabs Skye and “she goes down.” The robber says, “Pop ‘em and let’s get out of here.” One of the men refuses to kill them because “they’re just kids.” The robbery is described over five pages. 
  • The school bully, Marc, calls Chester “Salisbury-face” because they were serving it at lunch. Angry, Chester’s “lunch tray geos vertical, smashes straight into Marc’s face. Peas go rolling over his shoulder, down his arms, and onto the floor.” 
  • Marc corners Chester in the bathroom and gives Chester a bruise “exactly the size and shape of a urinal head.” 

Drugs and Alcohol 

  • Twice after being punched, Chester goes home and takes Tylenol for the pain. 
  • While having dinner, Chester’s mother and her boyfriend have a beer. 
  • At the bowling alley, a group of adults is drinking beer.  
  • Chester’s mom’s boyfriend serves pizza and beer to other adults. 

Language   

  • Marc calls Chester a loser several times. 
  • When Marc slams into Chester, Chester thinks Marc is a “jerk-face.” 
  • After hitting Marc with his lunch, Chester thinks, “Oh, no. Oh, crud.” 
  • Skye says Marc is a jerk. 
  • Dang it is used three times. 
  • Heck is used four times. 
  • OMG, my God, and oh my God are used as an exclamation a few times. 
  • Skye calls Chester a doofus and a goof.  

Supernatural 

  • None 

Spiritual Content 

  • None 

Buttons for General Washington

Fourteen-year-old John Darragh was a spy. But British-occupied Philadelphia in 1777 was not a safe place for an American spy. If he were captured, John knew he would be hanged. In this suspenseful story based on accounts of the Darragh family’s spying activities for General Washington, young John undertakes a dangerous mission to deliver a message to the American army. 

Buttons for General Washington introduces history to beginning readers. While the book features real people from history, the story is fictional. The author’s note at the beginning of the book explains important historical information that makes the book easier to understand. For example, the author explains why the characters use thee and thou. To make the book accessible to beginning readers, each page has three to nine sentences with easy vocabulary. In addition, a large illustration appears on almost every page to break the text into manageable parts.  

Readers interested in history will find Buttons for General Washington intriguing. John Darragh’s dangerous mission to deliver a message to General Washington is suspenseful because John worries that if British soldiers discover he is a spy, they will hang him. The story does not go into depth, however, which may frustrate stronger readers. The book doesn’t explain what secret code was used or how others were able to decode the message. While the story stresses the importance of the message, readers are left to wonder why the message was important. Despite this, the story’s brevity makes the text accessible to beginning readers, who will learn many interesting facts about British-occupied Philadelphia in 1777. 

Sexual Content 

  • None 

Violence 

  • John thinks about the spies who were captured and were “lucky to end up in prison. Usually they were hanged.”  
  • While in town, John runs into Samuel, a Tory, who is the same age as him. After a brief argument, Samuel poked John and then pushed him to the ground. 
  • While in the woods, a man surprises John. “Suddenly, a hand grabbed [John] from behind. . . The man aimed a pistol at John.” The man turns John in to an American camp, where John’s brother was stationed. John is set free. 

Drugs and Alcohol 

  • None 

Language   

  • None 

Supernatural 

  • None 

Spiritual Content 

  • None 

Top Secret: A Handbook of Codes, Ciphers, and Secret Writing

Attention: Junior Secret Agent 

Now that these top-secret files have fallen into your hands, you have in your possession everything you’ll need to know about making and breaking codes and ciphers. From everyday codes and pictographs to encryption and concealment methods used throughout history, this handbook proves the necessary tools for a budding cryptographer. And as you’ll see, a duo of seasoned, sneaky spies is on the case to illustrate how it all works. 

Your mission: Reading this book! 

Top Secret: A Handbook of Codes, Ciphers, and Secret Writing gives many examples of ciphers, including ones from literature such as Poe’s ciphers in “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Fall of the House of Usher.” For each coded message, the answers are in the back of the book, which allows readers to try to figure out the message without peeking at the answers. In addition to ciphers, the book includes information on code-breaking. There are several coded messages that readers will have fun trying to decipher. Readers will also learn about different liquids they can use to make invisible ink. 

Many examples of historical codes are scattered throughout the book, and the end of the book has a chapter titled the “Codemakers and Codebreakers Hall of Fame.” This chapter gives more examples of historical people, such as Benedict Arnold, who used ciphers. Many of the people who created ciphers did so to hide military secrets. However, no bloody battle scenes are described. Instead, the book uses a down-to-earth tone that will appeal to readers. In addition, every one to three pages has some type of graphic element—a practice code, a list, or a black and white illustration. Most of the illustrations are humorous, such as a spy running away from an angry pig.  

Top Secret: A Handbook of Codes, Ciphers, and Secret Writing uses an entertaining format to introduce the art of spying. Through historical examples, readers will learn many interesting facts about codemaking, ciphers, codebreaking, and concealment. Anyone who has ever wondered how spies pass secret messages must read this book. To learn more about the Culper Spy Ring, grab a copy of George Washington’s Spies by Claudia Friddell as well.  

Sexual Content 

  • None 

Violence 

  • Mary Queen of Scots used a substitution cipher, but “it was the discovery and deciphering of this system by her enemies that caused her to lose her head to the executioner when she was convicted of plotting to overthrow Queen Elizabeth.” 
  • An ancient Greek historian, Herodotus, would send messages to his generals. Herodotus found a servant with poor eyesight and then “shaved the slave’s head, then branded a message on his scalp! When the hair grew in, the master told the servant that his eyesight would be better when he had his head shaved at a camp some miles away.” 
  • During England’s civil war, several Puritans were captured and “made the long walk to the gallows.” 
  • Benedict Arnold betrayed the colonies by spying for the enemy. “After a midnight meeting with Arnold, André was captured. . . he was hanged in 1780.” 

Drugs and Alcohol 

  • None 

Language   

  • None 

Supernatural 

  • None

Spiritual Content 

  • None 

Mysterious Messages: A History of Codes and Ciphers

This fascinating look at history’s most mysterious messages is packed with puzzles to decode and ciphers that kids can use themselves. In this book you can find the encrypted notes of Spartan warriors, the brilliant code-crackers of Elizabeth I, secret messages of the American Revolution, spy books of the Civil War, the famous Enigma Machine, and the Navajo code talkers. As computers change the way we communicate, codes today are more intriguing than ever.  

From invisible ink to the CIA, this exciting trip through history is a hands-on, interactive experience—so get cracking! 

Mysterious Messages is for readers who want an in-depth historical look at the practice of creating codes and ciphers. The book starts with the father of history, Greek writer Herodotus, who documented some of the first cases of hiding messages. Sections of the book go into more detail about the historical aspects of hidden messages and give examples that readers can try to solve. Along with the stories, the book contains small sections titled “the Boring Definitions Box” that define words. Scattered throughout the book are pictures of the people discussed in the stories. Many of the pictures are of statues, paintings, photographs, and black and white sketches. In addition, historical documents are featured such as a letter written in code to the Queen of Scots, who was planning to assassinate Queen Elizabeth I.   

Politics played a huge role in the development of codes and ciphers, and Mysterious Messages discusses the many ways spies secretly communicated. While the format has a visual element on every page, readers who aren’t interested in history and politics may find it difficult to finish the book. However, Mysterious Messages would be an excellent source to use for a research paper. The book will also appeal to readers who want to learn more about espionage and how codes and ciphers were used both in diplomatic times and times of war.  

Sexual Content 

  • None 

Violence 

  • In order to hide a message, a nobleman “slit open the belly of a freshly killed rabbit, hid his message inside, and sent it off with a courier posing as a hunter.” 
  • Christopher Marlowe was “murdered at the age of twenty-nine” because of his work as a secret agent. 
  • Several people who were caught spying were hanged.  
  • Mary, the Queen of Scots, used secret messages in an attempt to assassinate Queen Elizabeth I. “The Queen of Scots was tried, found guilty largely on the basis of the deciphered message, and beheaded.” The other people involved were “bowelled alive and quartered.”  
  • The British caught Nathan Hale spying. When he was found guilty of espionage, he was “hanged from the limb of an apple tree.”  
  • A British spy was captured with papers that contained details of a conspiracy. He was “hanged by the Americans.” 
  • During World War I, “a German submarine had torpedoed the Lusitania, a British passenger ship. Twelve hundred people drowned.”  

Drugs and Alcohol 

  • None 

Language   

  • None 

Supernatural 

  • During World War II, a Polish cipher “was so desperate to read Germany’s Enigma-enciphered messages that it hired a psychic to try to make sense of them.”  

Spiritual Content 

  • In the 1500s, a man from Germany believed that “if you wrapped up your message in a picture of the person you were sending it to, buried it under the threshold of the house, and said the proper incantation, it would be delivered telepathically by a network of angels.”  
  • Since Queen Elizabeth embraced Protestantism, “the

Kelsey the Spy

Kelsey can’t resist collecting secrets in her spy notebook just like her hero, Harriet the Spy. When she learns Leo has been hiding something from the group, she writes his secret in her notebook as well. But when the notebook goes missing, everything she’s collected about classmates, friends, and family could be revealed to the world! After receiving a ransom note, Kelsey tries to solve the mystery on her own. But soon she realizes she needs help from everyone in the Curious Cat Spy Club in order to rescue her notebook, help a homesick 130-year-old Aldabra tortoise, and unmask a thief. 

When Kelsey’s notebook of secrets disappears, she is consumed with fear that the secrets will be revealed and someone will be hurt. When one of her secrets goes public, Kelsey is convinced that the thief must be stopped. Kelsey’s fear and worry drive much of her actions, but the constant reminders of the dangers of keeping secrets becomes annoying. While Kelsey’s concerns are justified, Kelsey’s inner monologue may frustrate readers. 

The story’s focus is on Kelsey’s stolen notebook, which doesn’t allow room for the other subplots to be adequately explored. For example, a lost dog that Kelsey is hoping to find only appears twice and the encounter is so short that it does nothing to add to the story. Part of the story includes interesting facts about an Aldabra tortoise, but animal-loving readers will wish that more time was devoted to the tortoise. Even though the animal aspect of Kelsey the Spy reinforces the theme of not keeping secrets, the subplot lacks depth.  

Readers will relate to Kelsey’s friendship problems. As Kelsey struggles with finding the notebook thief, she also has a difficult time with the changing nature of her friendships. When Kelsey’s friends are too busy to spend time with her, Kelsey gets frustrated. Kelsey finally talks to her friends about how she feels, which allows them to work through their problems. In the end, she realizes that friendships change, “rising and falling, then coming back together stronger than ever.” 

Kelsey the Spy has an inquisitive protagonist who helps put on a fundraiser for a local shelter. Kelsey is a typical preteen that many readers will relate to. However, the plot tackles too much—Kelsey’s brother who is sneaking around, a lost dog, the missing notebook, and the tortoise who needs a new home. Because of the many subplots, the story jumps around a lot. Kelsey the Spy does have some fun elements to keep readers engaged. Plus, it teaches important lessons about teamwork, friendship, and the dangers of keeping secrets. Even though Kelsey the Spy is the third book in the series, it can also be read as a standalone. Middle-grade mystery-loving readers should also read the Friday Barns Series by R.A. Spratt. 

Sexual Content 

  • While spying on her brother, Kelsey sees her friend’s mom. “The sheriff and Mrs. Morales are both divorced and went to high school together so they’re good friends. . . the sheriff kisses her—a big, fat kiss on the lips that lasts a very long time.” 

Violence 

  • None 

Drugs and Alcohol 

  • None 

Language   

  • OMG is used often. Oh my god is used once. 
  • Kelsey says drat three times. 
  • Kelsey’s friend calls a classmate a “slimy snake.” Later she calls someone else a jerk. 

Supernatural 

  • None 

Spiritual Content 

  • None 

Anna Strong and the Revolutionary War Culper Spy Ring

Travel back in time to the American Revolution in this thrilling third book of the Spy on History series. Discover the secret Culper Ring, a network of American spies fighting against the British redcoats. Meet historical figures like George Washington and the soon-to-be-infamous Benedict Arnold. Also meet Anna Strong, an unsung heroine who found ingenious ways to communicate top-secret messages to her fellow spies—helping to free the American colonies from British rule.

Your mission: Decode Anna Strong’s hidden message and discover the secret assignment she undertook for the Culper Ring. There are clues embedded in the book’s text and illustrations, plus spy craft materials, including a cipher wheel in an envelope at the beginning of the book. 

Anna Strong and the Revolutionary War Culper Spy Ring allows readers to step back into history and play the part of a Culper spy. The story focuses on Anna and her role as a spy during the Revolutionary War. Even though Anna was often fearful, her bravery allowed George Washington to receive important wartime intelligence that was critical in winning the war. Focusing on Anna allows the reader to see how the war affected men, women, and children.  

Anna’s story is fast-paced, full of suspense, and jam-packed with historical information. In addition, the book’s format is visually appealing. Every page has a graphic element, including pictures that are drawn in black, white, and red. Plus, most of the pages have a quote set apart from the other text. These quotes are printed in large fonts and help break up the text. The graphic elements are essential because hidden in the pictures and text are clues and codes. Readers will use a cipher wheel, a pigpen code, and other methods to decipher Anna’s letter to Caleb Brewster, another spy. 

Readers will enjoy using the spy tools and finding clues throughout the story. However, the lack of direction makes this task difficult. The first page of the book has a map of the Culper Spy Ring. The top of the map has a coded question that is easy to miss. Without the essential question, the clues are just a collection of random words. Parents may want to read the answer key that appears at the end of the book so they can assist young readers in finding and understanding the clues.   

Anna Strong and the Revolutionary War Culper Spy Ring will appeal to readers who love ciphers, history, spies, and mystery. Plus, it gives recognition to many of the spies who helped win the American Revolution. The well-written story will keep readers’ attention and the hidden clues will make them feel like they are a part of history. Readers who want to learn more about women’s role in the Revolutionary War should also read Susanna’s Midnight Ride by Libby Carty McNamee. If you’re looking for more historical facts about the Culper Spies, George Washington’s Spies by Claudia Friddell will give you the inside scoop.  

Sexual Content 

  • None 

Violence 

  • British soldiers knock on Anna’s door in the middle of the night. Anna and her children watched as “one of the soldiers stepped behind her husband and roughly bound his hands.” Anna’s husband was arrested and taken prisoner on a prison ship. 
  • Anna goes to see her husband on the prison ship. When she gets there, the ship smelled “of death. The eyes of the prisoners were sunken, and their faces were taut with hunger.” When Anna sees her husband, “his hands and feet [were] in iron shackles, she saw the same look of starvation and mistreatment beginning to hollow his features.” 
  • Nathan Hale was spying for George Washington. When he got caught, “Nathan was identified as a spy within days and executed almost immediately after he was captured.”  
  • Benedict Arnold was sent into a battle where he “received a terrible leg wound.” 
  • One night, a British soldier is caught sneaking around outside of Anna’s house. Caleb, Anna’s friend, sees him and, “Just as [the soldier] began to dismount from his horse, Caleb burst from the hedge. . . Anna heard a series of thumps as Caleb struck the man, blow after blow.” Anna was afraid Caleb “was going to kill him” but the soldier runs off.  
  • John André, a British soldier, was captured. “André was charged and hanged as a spy.”  

Drugs and Alcohol 

  • One of the spies would go into the city and, when passing the British checkpoints, he bribes the solders with liquor. 
  • When a group of patriots took over a fort, the men helped “themselves to the fort’s liquor stores.” 

Language   

  • None 

Supernatural 

  • None 

Spiritual Content 

  • None 

Spy Files: Codes and Ciphers

Sneak into the secret lives of spies with this fascinating series about the world’s security services—with agent profiles, information on technology, and events that changed the world. Codes and Ciphers is packed full of interesting information beginning with the difference between a code and cipher, and how they were first developed.  

Codes and Ciphers uses a fun format that breaks up information into small, manageable parts. Each two-page spread changes topics and each page has only one to three short paragraphs plus photo captions. Each page has illustrations including historical photos, drawings, and illustrations of spy technology. Plus, some pages have an infographic titled “Top Secret” which gives additional information on spying. While the format will appeal to many readers, the large font and short paragraphs don’t allow each topic to be explored in detail. Readers who want to learn more in-depth information about codes and ciphers should check out Top Secret by Paul B. Janeczko. 

The wide range of spy information, which includes a lot of historical stories such as information on the World War II Navajo Code Talkers, is extremely interesting. Plus, readers will learn how to make their own codes, ciphers, and invisible ink. The book ends with a two-page glossary and an index. Codes and Ciphers will entertain readers and introduce many interesting facts. Spy-loving readers who want to add a little spy humor to their reading should sneak to the library and search for the Mac B. Kid Spy Series by Mac Barnett. 

Sexual Content 

  • None 

Violence 

  • None 

Drugs and Alcohol 

  • None 

Language   

  • None 

Supernatural 

  • None 

Spiritual Content 

  • None 

The Usborne Book of Secret Codes

With this book of crafty codes, you can discover ways of sending top-secret messages that will leave snoopers completely baffled. Many of the codes are based on those used by real spies. There are nifty gadgets and lots of hints on how to keep your enemy stumped. As you learn new codes, you can follow a thrilling story involving undercover agents and secret code experts.

As readers learn about codes, they can also follow the story of “The Tomb of the Cursed Tongues.” Follow Agent A as she decodes messages that will help her uncover the fiendish activities of Agent X. In order to distinguish Agent A’s story from informational text, the story is typed in italics. If you get stumped, the answers appear at the back of the book. While Agent A’s story isn’t detailed, readers will have fun decoding messages and trying to solve the mystery.

The Usborne Book of Secret Codes explains each type of code in detail and gives examples that readers will be eager to decode. The book covers 15 types of secret codes including pigpen code, Morse Code, code wheel, and technobabble. Readers will also learn about the history of codes and how some code makers hid their messages. For example, “While working for the army, a military spy disguised himself as a butterfly collector. The patterns he drew of butterfly wings were, in fact, tiny plans of the enemy’s strategies.”

To add to the book’s fun, each page has large colorful illustrations that follow Agent A’s story. Plus, there are many examples of secret codes that readers can try to solve. The book includes simple directions to help readers create invisible writing, a code strip, a code wheel, and other spy codes. The large illustrations break up the text into short paragraphs that will appeal to even the most reluctant reader. The fun format will engage readers and give them many opportunities to interact with the text.

The Usborne Book of Secret Codes will teach readers about the fascinating ways that spies have hidden codes. The interactive book is perfect for readers who want to learn about spycraft. However, readers who want to learn more about the history of codes will want to add Top Secret: A Handbook of Codes, Ciphers, and Secret Writing by Paul B. Janeczko to their reading list. Also consider Anna Strong and the Revolutionary War Culper Spy Ring by Enigma Alverti & Laura Terry; it comes with a spycraft kit that readers use to decipher the different codes in the book, and readers will have fun interacting with the story and seeing if they can solve the puzzles by the end of the book.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

Charlotte Spies For Justice: A Civil War Survival Story

Twelve-year-old Charlotte lives on a plantation in Richmond, Virginia, where the American Civil War is raging. All around her, citizens and the Confederate army are fighting to protect slavery — the very thing Charlotte wishes would end. When she overhears the plantation owner conspiring against the Confederates, Charlotte knows she must help. Maybe together they can help the Union win the war and end slavery. Helping a spy is dangerous work, but Charlotte is willing to risk everything to fight for what is right — justice for all people.  

Charlotte Spies For Freedom is full of action and suspense that focuses on the heroic deeds of many historical events. While Charlotte is fictional, she is a relatable character who shows bravery despite her fear. Several times, Charlotte visits Libby prison. Even though the story shows the harsh conditions of Libby prison and includes the death of several Union soldiers, no gruesome details are given. However, the story highlights Charlotte’s fear of being caught and harmed. Despite her fear, Charlotte is willing to risk her life to help the Union cause. She says, “I’m willing to give my life away if it helps free my people.”  

Even though Charlotte is a fictional character, many of the book’s characters are based on real people. This includes Elizabeth Van Lew, who gathered important information to pass along to the Union Army. Readers will be fascinated with the different ways Elizabeth Van Lew used to send messages, including using invisible ink and ciphers. She also hides messages in hollowed-out eggs, the heels of boots, and loaves of bread. Several times, Charlotte comments on Elizabeth Van Lew’s “odd” behavior; the author’s note explains that Elizabeth Van Lew’s strange behavior was another way she disguised her activities.  

Another historical spy is Mister McNiven. Despite being surrounded by war, Mister McNiven greets Charlotte each morning by saying, “It’s a good day to be alive.” At first, Charlotte doesn’t understand his optimism. However, she soon realizes Mister McNiven believes this because “he knew he was doing something important. He hoped for a better tomorrow and he was doing his part.” 

To make the story easy to follow, each chapter begins with Charlotte’s location and the date. Every ten to seventeen pages there is a black-and-white illustration that focuses on Charlotte’s activities. One illustration shows a Confederate soldier hitting Charlotte. The back of the book contains an author’s note that goes into more detail about the historical facts of Elizabeth Van Lew, a glossary, and three response questions to help readers connect to the reading material. 

Charlotte Spies For Freedom is an engaging story that shows how ordinary people were willing to lay down their lives to fight for the freedom of all people. The story, which uses kid-friendly descriptions, is both educational and entertaining. Since the story is full of danger and action, it will appeal to a wide audience. Readers interested in historical fiction can also learn about the Underground Railroad by reading Long Road to Freedom by Kate Messner. 

Sexual Content 

  • None

Violence 

  • Charlotte goes to a prison holding Union prisoners. While there, she sees “a dead Union soldier. . . I caught a glimpse of his face. I could tell he had been beaten.” 
  • While delivering food to the prisoners, a Confederate soldier named Robert points a gun at Charlotte. Robert “walked toward me, put the barrel of his gun in my face, and cocked it.”  Another soldier, Erasmus Ross appears and grabs Charlotte’s face. “He squeezed even harder, and a sharp pain shot through my jaw.” Ross drags Charlotte outside. 
  • In order to protect Charlotte, Ross takes her outside and tells her, “I’m going to get you out of here, but I have to hit you.” He proceeds to backhand her. “It hurt, but not nearly as much as it should have. . . Mister Ross gave me a shove so hard it sent me to my knees.” As she was leaving, “a shot rang out behind me. I could only hope that Mister Ross had fired into the air.” 
  • After a prison break, Confederate soldiers “recaptured forty-eight Union soldiers. . . Two of them drowned.” 

Drugs and Alcohol 

  • None 

Language   

  • Some people called Elizabeth Van Lew “Crazy Bet.” 

Supernatural 

  • None 

Spiritual Content 

  • None 

The Real Spy’s Guide to Becoming a Spy

Created by the founding executive director of the International Spy Museum, who is also a former operative in the CIA’s Clandestine Service, this is the official handbook for kids who dream of one day becoming a spy or working in the intelligence field.

Have you ever wondered what spies really do? What kind of training is involved? Do you have to go to a special school or take a polygraph test? How do you live your “cover?” How does your work life affect your relationships with your friends and family? Is there danger involved?

This fascinating, fact-filled book answers these questions and more while providing a historical timeline, definitions of key terms, suggestions for further reading, an index, quizzes, and exercises to see if you have the right spy stuff. 

The Real Spy’s Guide to Becoming a Spy is packed full of interesting information about the spy world and it explains why spies are important. “Every country wants to know what other countries—both friends and enemies—are doing and how it might affect their national interests.” Readers will learn about the world of spies through fun infographics that include spy terms, job descriptions, true stories, and quizzes. Readers will also learn about common spy myths and what a spy’s life is really like.  

Readers will also learn about other jobs within the spy world, such as people who create spy science and technology, a case officer, and an intelligence analyst. In addition, the book explains what qualities spies need and what steps to take in order to become a spy. While a spy’s life isn’t as exciting as James Bond portrays it, readers will still enjoy learning about dead drops, listening devices, and ciphers. After taking the quizzes, readers will know if a spy’s life is for them.   

The book’s conversational tone and graphic elements give the story an interesting flair. Every page has some type of graphic element including black and white illustrations, “Spy Speak” glossaries, lists, and/or bold red titles. Breaking up the text with these graphic elements makes the reading more enjoyable and presents facts in a way that makes them easy to remember. Even though the book’s topic is serious and the importance of intelligence gathering is highlighted, the book will not fail to entertain readers interested in the world of spies.  

As a former CIA operations officer and the founding executive director of the International Spy Museum, Peter Earnest uses his knowledge to teach readers about becoming a spy. By the end of reading The Real Spy’s Guide to Becoming a Spy, readers will have a better understanding of the spy world and if they have what it takes to go undercover. Readers who want to jump into the exciting, but the fictional world of a group of young spies should read the City Spies Series by James Ponti.  

Sexual Content 

  • None 

Violence 

  • A timeline titled “How Long Have Spies Been Around?” includes spies who were executed for espionage. For example, “Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed in the United States for espionage on behalf of the Soviet Union. . . The Rosenbergs were members of an atomic spy ring whose espionage helped the USSR develop its own nuclear bomb.” 
  • “A defector from Russian intelligence dies of radiation poisoning in London.” The defector believed the Russian president planned his assassination. 
  • Sometimes countries kill enemy leaders. “This is called targeted killing, rather than assassination.” 
  • In order to stop terrorist attacks, President Bush declared “war on terror. . . Armed drones have also been used to attack terrorist strongholds and kill terrorist leaders. The terrorists also rely on their own intelligence capabilities and covert tradecraft to plan and carry out their deadly activities.” 

Drugs and Alcohol 

  • When the KGB suspected that one of its operatives was working for the British, they gave him a truth serum.  

Language   

  • None 

Supernatural 

  • None 

Spiritual Content 

  • None 

Charlie Thorne and the Curse of Cleopatra

After tracking down incredible discoveries by Einstein and Darwin, Charlie is back. This time, the great ruler Cleopatra has left behind an extremely valuable and powerful treasure, its location encoded on an ancient stone tablet.

In 30 BCE, Cleopatra and her husband, Marc Antony, lost their war against Octavian for control of the Egyptian Empire. However, Cleopatra knew Octavian was really after the mysterious item that was the source of all her wealth and influence, so she hid it before committing suicide. She left a series of devious clues behind for her children to find, but they were lost to history. . .until now.

In a breathless adventure that takes her across the globe, Charlie must fight for her life against ruthless enemies, match wits with Cleopatra, and solve the two-thousand-year-old mystery to prevent the most powerful treasure of the ancient world from falling into the wrong hands. 

Because the story revolves around finding Cleopatra’s hidden treasure, the story contains many historical facts about Cleopatra, Caesar, and other important people. The history lessons are not boring; the interesting facts help the reader understand the political issues surrounding Cleopatra and will help readers empathize with Cleopatra, who was misjudged because she was a woman.  

Charlie is an extremely likable character, who is intelligent, capable, and brave. In order to keep Cleopatra’s treasure out of the wrong hands, Charlie puts her trust in her half-brother and CIA agent, Dante, and his partner, Milana. Along the way, they must avoid both the CIA, the Israeli, and the Egyptian agents who are willing to kill to take control of Charlie. Despite being chased around the globe, Charlie is remarkably down to earth. At one point, when the Israelis capture her, she tells the agent, “If you were actually nice people, you wouldn’t have dragged me down into the bowels of the Colosseum to talk to me. You would have taken me out for gelato.” 

Charlie Thorne and the Curse of Cleopatra is best suited for older readers because of the violence, power-hungry villains, and deadly agents who are trying to capture Charlie. The action-packed story has a complicated plot, intense fight scenes, and life-or-death chases. The constant danger makes for an exciting book that readers will not want to put down. The mystery of Cleopatra adds an interesting dimension that will engage readers. Readers who are looking for another fast-paced mystery should check out the City Spies Series by James Ponti and the Secrets of the Seven Series by Sarah L. Thomson.  

Sexual Content 

  • None 

Violence 

  • Charlie sneaks into Ahmet’s office. When he appears, “Charlie tricked him into turning his back on her. Now she clamped the chloroform-soaked rag. . . over his nose and mouth. . . He tried to fight back. . . Charlie simply leapt onto his back as if he were giving her a piggyback ride, wrapping her arms around his head and keeping the rag pinioned directly over his face.” Ahmet collapses to the floor. 
  • While leaving Ahmet’s party, two bodyguards chase after Charlie. Before she can take off on a motorcycle, Charlie “headbutted another man who was trying to catch her.” She escapes the house but is followed. 
  • Hoping to lose her pursuer, Charlie drives into the desert and allows her motorcycle to fly over a sand dune. Then, Charlie sees “the stocky, muscular shape of his body. He was aiming a gun at her.” The man forces Charlie to surrender. The chase scene is described over two chapters. 
  • The men who captured Charlie encounter a roadblock. “And then the shooting started. The snipers were aiming at the tires of the van, and they were extremely accurate. All four tires were blown out within seconds.” Charlie is let go. 
  • The Egyptian secret service questions Charlie’s captor, Semel. When Semel doesn’t answer the questions, “someone clubbed him on the back of the head with the butt of a rifle. Not hard enough to knock him unconscious but close. He saw stars, felt blinding pain, and fell forward in the dirt.” 
  • While interrogating Semel, someone shoots the agent, who “yelped in pain, spun, and fell.” Multiple agents are shot in the leg, and Semel and his men escape.  
  • In order to get Charlie to comply with orders, one of her friends is captured by a man named Lembris. “Lembris stood behind Eva, pressing a crowbar against the front of her neck. Eva was crying.” Eventually, Milana fights Lembris and frees Eva. 
  • The following scenes are described over eleven pages. Ramses has his men surround Charlie, Milana, and Dante. In order to escape, Charlie “reached behind [Ramses’s] back and yanked on the electrical cord that dangled like a vine from the scaffolding above. The power drill attached to it tumbled off the scaffolding and landed squarely on Ramses’s head. . . The heavy drill hit Ramses hard, and he dropped like a stone.” 
  • Then, Milana goes after Ramses’s bodyguard. “She quickly disarmed him, then jabbed him with the sedative she had. . . it was just enough to incapacitate the big man.” 
  • When Ramses begins to get up, Dante “drove the Egyptian’s head down into the marble floor, knocking him out for good.” One of Ramses’s men, Baako, throws a crowbar at Dante. “Pain shot through him, but he could tell no bones were broken.” 
  • Baako and Dante continue to fight. Baako slammed into Dante, driving him backward into the scaffolding so hard that all four stories of it trembled. . .” Eventually the scaffolding falls onto Baako and he “lay unconscious beneath it all.”  
  • After finding one of Cleopatra’s clues, Charlie, Dante, and Milana are ambushed by their own agency, the CIA. Without warning “bullets came from all around. . . Dante sprang from where he’d been crouched and fired back, aiming at where the shots were coming from. There was a cry of pain in the darkness, and then at least one of the shooters stopped.” In order to escape, the group flees separately. 
  • As Charlie runs from the bullets, two cars begin following her. “The second car struck the first again, sending it into a low embankment, where it flipped and landed upside down. The second car was badly damaged as well. Its front axle snapped and it ground to a halt in the plaza in front of Charlie, blocking her escape.”  
  • When the driver of the car attempts to “escape through a shattered window. He was only halfway out when Semel clubbed him on the back of the head with the butt of his gun, knocking him cold. . .” 
  • The chase scene is described over 10 pages. Dante had “a burn across one bicep where a bullet had nicked him. Milana had a gash from a knife in her left arm. . .” 
  • In an epic multi-chapter conclusion, several CIA agents try to take down Dante and Milana, who they believe are rogue agents. Milana “disarmed the stunned CIA operative and threw her to the ground” and then ran into Central Park. Eventually, Milana is able to incapacitate all of the agents. 
  • A rich villain, Ahmet, tries to kill Charlie with cobra venom. “Charlie hated to use the elixir to defend herself, but she had no other choice. The remaining drops of liquid flew through the air, caught Ahmet in the face, and instantly began to react. His flesh smoked and sizzled.” Ahmet’s skin begins to burn. 
  • Despite being injured, Ahmet chases Charlie. “He stepped on the jagged glass of the syringe with his bare foot. It cut into his flesh, and he suddenly realized that, in addition to everything else, the very cobra venom he had brought with him to kill Charlie Throne was now in his system as well.” When Ahmet continues to chase Charlie, she hits him with a helmet made of medieval armor. Ahmet is too injured to continue after Charlie.  
  • Two villains, Israeli agents, Egyptian agents, and the CIA agents all try to capture Charlie, Dante, and Milana. During the chase, several people are injured. One villain lunges at Charlie, trying to poison her with cobra venom. “Charlie hit him with the mace. . . the heavy iron ball struck his forearm, snapping both bones. . . He cursed at Charlie and charged toward her, leaving her no choice but to defend herself. She leapt aside and swung the mace at him once more. . . the iron ball glanced off his head, sending him reeling.” The villain falls off a ledge and “onto the rocks below.”  

Drugs and Alcohol 

  • Instead of allowing Octavian to capture her, Cleopatra “drank her poison and imagined how horrified Octavian would be when he learned what she had done.” 
  • At a party full of adults, Charlie talks to a man who “had a glass of scotch in his hand and was slightly unsteady on his feet; this obviously wasn’t his first drink of the evening.” 
  • In order to find one of Cleopatra’s clues, Milana needs to get an archaeologist out of the way, so she drugs her.  
  • Milana uses sedation darts to incapacitate rival agents who are trying to kidnap Charlie.  
  • During dinner, Dante drinks wine. 

Language   

  • None 

Supernatural 

  • Cleopatra’s treasure is the philosopher’s stone which turns “base metals into gold.”  

Spiritual Content 

  • Some people considered Cleopatra “more than human. They thought her to be a goddess, the living incarnation of Isis.” 
  • Isis was “the most important goddess in Egyptian mythology, the goddess of life and magic, and the protector of women and children. Cleopatra sometimes claimed to be Isis in the flesh and a lot of Egyptians believed it.” 
  • During Cleopatra’s time, the Nile flooded almost every year. People believed “a good flood year meant the gods were smiling on the Egyptians.” 

Rebecca Rides for Freedom: An American Revolution Survival Story

The American Revolution is raging in Philadelphia, and Rebecca is determined to do all she can to help. With her father stationed with Washington’s army at nearby Whitemarsh, it’s up to Rebecca to help her mother at home with her younger siblings. That includes selling vegetables to British officers stationed in wealthy houses nearby. When Rebecca intercepts a message about an impending British attack against the Patriots from one such house, she knows she must act. It’s up to her to get the message to the Patriot army – before it’s too late.

 Rebecca Rides for Freedom begins by describing how the American Revolution affected families. Rebecca’s father leaves the family alone so he can fight alongside General Washington. However, because of the families’ loyalties to the Patriots, there is constant fear that the Tories will harm them. Despite the danger, Rebecca is determined to deliver an important message to her father’s garrison. Rebecca’s ride through dangerous territory highlights her bravery and determination. When she is finally close to the Patriot’s camp, a soldier tries to send her away, but Rebecca refuses to give up. She thinks, “I’d ridden miles in the snow, been captured, escaped, and forded the frozen creek. I hadn’t come this far only to be dismissed as a silly girl.”

Rebecca’s experience doesn’t go in-depth about the history behind the American Revolution. However, readers will begin to understand people’s fear of the Redcoats and how the war impacted families. While Rebecca’s fear of the soldiers is obvious, the events are described in kid-friendly terms. However, this doesn’t detract from Rebecca’s harrowing experiences or her bravery.

To make the story easy to follow, each chapter begins with Rebecca’s location, the date, and the time. Every 7 to 10 pages there is a black-and-white illustration. The illustrations focus on Rebecca and the events surrounding her. Some of the illustrations show the Redcoats carrying rifles. The book ends with a note from the author that describes her inspiration for writing the story, a glossary, and three questions about the story.

Rebecca Rides for Freedom is a fast-paced, entertaining book that will spark readers’ interest in history. While Rebecca is a fictional character, the author explains how real women inspired Rebecca’s character. The author writes, “The women behind Rebecca’s story were real wives, mothers, and daughters. They were ordinary women who showed extraordinary courage in order to protect both family members they loved and the ideals they believed in.” This allows girls to see the important and often overlooked, contribution women made during the American Revolution. In addition, Rebecca Rides for Freedom will encourage readers to stand up for their beliefs. Readers who want to learn more about the Revolutionary War should grab a copy of George Washington’s Socks, which is a fast-paced time travel adventure that goes into more detail about the war.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • When the Redcoats moved into one family’s home, they “turned the families out onto the street in the middle of the night. Lydia Wright’s baby sister had died that way.”
  • A Redcoat officer accidentally “shot himself in the foot.”
  • Rebecca meets Betsy whose “brother was beaten in the street when he wouldn’t get out of the way of the Redcoats. They broke his arm.”
  • For Rebecca to take papers with attack plans, Betsy helps. Betsy “swept her arm across the surface of the desk. All the papers fluttered to the floor.” As Rebecca leaves the house, “there was a smacking sound, and Betsy cried out.”
  • Rebecca is captured by the Redcoats. When she escapes, she jumps on her horse, Brownie, who “ran directly through the soldier’s campfire before any of them could realize what was going on. . . the soldiers dived for safety to either side.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • A group of Redcoats apprehends Rebecca. That night at their camp, the men were “Passing their jug from hand to hand, sometimes breaking into song. When the sergeant speaks, there is the “unmistakable slur of drink in his voice.”

Language

  • A Redcoat refers to General Washington’s soldiers as “Patriot devils.”

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • When Rebecca is planning to escape from the Redcoats, she “prayed none of them would sense my movement.”
  • While crossing a swollen river, Rebecca “held the wet reins, clinging to Brownie’s wet mane, and prayed. It must have been heard because the water grew more shallow.”

Forbidden City

Street-smart and agile, Paris is a huge fan of Liverpool F.C., Doctor Who, and chess. He’s also a survival specialist and the oldest member of the City Spies—a secret team of young agents working for M16, the British Secret Intelligence Service.

When M16 sets out to thwart Umbra’s attempts to recruit a prominent North Korean nuclear physicist for their nefarious purposes, the operation calls for Paris to make a covert connection with the scientist’s chess-prodigy son at a pair of tournaments in Moscow and Beijing. Meanwhile, Sydney is embedded as a junior reporter for a teen lifestyle site as she follows the daughter of a British billionaire on tour with the biggest act of her father’s music label.

The band and the billionaire are somehow connected to the scientist and the recent thefts of nuclear material from an old Soviet missile base, and it’s up to the City Spies to figure out how. The stakes couldn’t be higher, and the team will have to work together in perfect harmony in order to succeed on their most dangerous mission yet.

The third installment of the City Spies Series takes its focus off Brooklyn, and instead, Paris takes center stage. On the current mission, Paris and Mother go undercover. As part of their cover, Paris participates in the Around the World Chess Tournament, which allows Paris’s personality to shine. This also allows Mother to show that he truly wants to be a good father to his adopted children. The new dynamic adds interest and allows the story to focus on the common question: “Who am I?” This question gives Mother the perfect opening to share some of his background which gives the story a more sentimental vibe.

While Paris wrestles with the question, who am I, he also makes a decision that he thinks was a huge mistake. These two story threads dovetail perfectly and highlight the fact that everyone makes mistakes, and while some mistakes have devastating consequences, mistakes should be forgiven. In addition, when it comes to mistakes and consequences, we should not “celebrate people’s misfortunes.”

The mission requires part of the City Spies team to travel to both Russia and China which adds adventure and action. However, the team splits up into three groups and the constant back and forth between groups is at times a little overwhelming. Plus, readers who fell in love with Brooklyn will be disappointed by her absence because she sits out most of the mission.

The City Spies Series doesn’t rely on one plot formula, but instead, each book has a new focus that keeps the story interesting. Despite this, for maximum enjoyment, the series should be read in order. While the team must work together to complete the mission, their relationships—like any family’s—are complicated and have conflicts. These conflicts make the characters more relatable and add an interesting dynamic to the spy story. While the City Spies Series will appeal to readers of all ages, the series is perfect for middle-grade readers who love spy mysteries but want to avoid the violence. The Friday Barnes Mysteries Series has a more humorous tone, but will also appeal to middle-grade readers who love mysteries.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • While walking down a street, a man says something to two bodyguards, the Sorokins. “In a flash, Sasha grabbed him by the wrist and spun him around, twisting his arm up behind his back as he writhed in pain. . . on the verge of tears, he said something that Sydney assumed was an apology.”
  • When Jin-Sun is kidnapped, the City Spies find where he is being held captive. Sydney puts several smoke bombs down the chimney in the house where Jin-Sun is being held. The man guarding Jin-Sun, Sorokin, comes out of the house and “Sydney jumped on him from above. It was a direct hit, and as he staggered farther into the courtyard, Monty attacks him with a flurry of Jeet Kune Do moves to knock him out cold.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • While misleading the China Ministry of State, a spy leads them to an airport where they find her alone on a plane. When they enter the plane, she “took a sip of champagne.”

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

George Washington’s Socks

When five kids take a walk along Lake Levart late one night, a mysterious wooden rowboat beckons them aboard. As if in a trance, they all step inside. But what they don’t realize is that this enchanted boat is headed back in time—to the time of George Washington. And their neighborhood lake has been transformed into the icy Delaware River on the eve of the battle at Trenton. Matthew, Quentin, Hooter, Tony, and Katie experience the American Revolution firsthand and learn the sobering realities of war. But how will they ever find their way home?

The first six chapters of George Washington’s Socks are slow, but readers who stick with the book will be glad they did. Matt and his friends time jump and end up in the middle of George Washington’s rebels crossing the Delaware. The rebels are preparing to attack the enemy, in a surprising way. Matt is soon separated from his sister and his friends and marching to battle. Along the way, Matt befriends Isaac, who didn’t join the Army because he believed in the cause, but rather because he needed to help support his younger siblings. While marching with Isaac and the other soldiers, Matt gets firsthand experience with the difficult situations that the rebels faced. Once Matt jumps into the past, he’s in for an action-packed adventure.

George Washington’s Socks gives readers a close look at war; while none of the descriptions are bloody, Matt sees several people whom he considered friends die. During the war, the rebels faced danger, death, and harsh conditions and yet they carried on. Seeing these experiences changes the way Matt views the rebels and the enemy. For example, Matt sees some of George Washington’s rebels being disrespectful to a Hessian soldier that they killed. “Matt suddenly felt sick to his stomach. He hated to see them acting so badly, for these were his rebels. They were the special brave men that he had always dreamed about and suddenly they seemed neither special nor brave.” Because of his experiences, Matt realizes that the line between good guys and bad guys isn’t always clear. Instead, “there’s no such thing as just good guys fighting bad guys. It seems like there’s good and bad on both sides.”

George Washington’s Socks will appeal to history lovers and readers who want a great time travel adventure. Even though the story focuses on colonial America and the Revolutionary War, the story highlights the kindness of others and has pockets of humor. In addition, Matt is a compassionate and relatable protagonist who learns that history books do not tell the whole story. Readers who enjoy historical fiction and want to learn more about the Revolutionary War should read Daniel at the Siege of Boston 1776 by Laurie Calkhoven.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • Adam Hibbs was supposed to take the kids to safety, but “Adam Hibbs lay bleeding, with his head resting in Hooter Melrose’s lap. It seemed the young corporal had been standing in a boat looking up the shore when he stumbled and fell onto his bayonet. . . Adam Hibbs was not expected to live the night.”
  • Two Indians find Matt alone in the woods. “One raised a tomahawk while the other held a bow with a long arrow pointed directly at Matt’s heart.”
  • When Katie wanders off, Hessian soldiers find her. When Matt and his friends discover the group, “Matt took a deep breath and reached for a musket. Tony and Hooter did the same. At the sound of their footsteps, the Hessians swung around and drew their swords. . . The soldiers waved their swords and shouted until Matt and the boys put their hands over their heads.”
  • A Hessian soldier, Gustav, was helping the kids when there was “the sound of musket fire.” The kids “looked on in horror as Gustav cried out in pain, for a musket ball had ripped through his back. He took a step, then fell forward, toppling to the ground with his face in the snow.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • One of the soldiers has “sour rum breath.”
  • A young soldier is eating snow when he says, “I wish we had a small beer to wash it down with.”
  • A soldier’s father “has a likeness for rum. . . He spends most of his day in the tavern.”

Language

  • One of Matt’s friends asks if Matt’s grandfather is “a little bit batty.”
  • Several times the soldiers refer to the enemy mercenaries as “Hessian pigs.” They are also said to be “blood-thirsty.”
  • While traveling to attack the enemy, Colonel Knox says, “We’re hours behind because of this damn storm.”
  • When Matt decides to stay close to his dying friend, a soldier calls Matt a “little fool.”
  • After killing Hessian solider, a man refers to the dead man as “scum.”

Supernatural

  • Matt’s grandfather tells a story about a friend, Adam Hibbs, who disappeared. Adam “was out on the lake in a rowboat, a rowboat my grandpa had never seen before. . . Grandpa ran to the tent to get a lantern. But when he got back to the lake it was too late. Adam Hibbs was gone, disappeared, boat and all, and no one to this day knows what happened to him.”
  • When Matt and his friends see a mysterious rowboat, “he was the first to come under the boat’s spell. It was the same desire to board the boat that he’d felt when he first saw it. . . Smiling, as if in a trance, Matt reached for an oar.”
  • After their adventure, Katie tells the rowboat to take them home. A soldier is surprised when it looks like the kids “disappeared into thin air. . . They were in a boat on the beach and suddenly they started to spin around and then they vanished!” The general thinks the soldier imagined it because of his “harsh whisky breath.”
  • While the kids were gone, no one missed them because, “a person traveling through time can experience days, weeks, and even years, and then return home to find that he’s only been gone a few hours.”

Spiritual Content

  • A soldier thinks Matt and the kids are enemy spies. The soldier says, “God forgive the cold Tory heart that would send children out to face the dangers of this night.”
  • General Washington says, “God willing, we’ll all live to remember this night.” Later he says, “God granting, the day will be dark.”
  • When Matt’s friend dies, a man says, “He’s no longer here, but in God’s glorious kingdom.”

 

The Eureka Key

When middle school puzzle master Sam and history wiz Martina win a contest for a summer trip across the U.S., they discover they’ve been drafted into something vastly more extraordinary. Joining another kid on the trip, Theo, a descendant of George Washington himself, they must follow clues to find seven keys left behind by the Founding Fathers.

Together, the keys unlock Benjamin Franklin’s greatest invention – a secret weapon with the intention of defending the country. Each key is hidden in a unique location around the U.S., protected with puzzles, riddles, and traps. This has kept the weapon safe . . . until now! Gideon Arnold, a dangerous descendant of the infamous Benedict Arnold, is on the chase.

Readers of The Eureka Key will enjoy learning about one of America’s founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin, in this fast-paced story. The action begins from the very first page and never stops. To find a weapon hidden by the Founding Fathers, Sam, Martina and Theo must find clues and answer the riddles left by Benjamin Franklin. With the villain’s goons just steps behind them, the kids must focus on deciphering the clues. Similar to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, each new clue can also lead to a potentially deadly trap which makes for some very suspenseful moments. The clues are based on Franklin’s real inventions and readers will attempt to figure out the clues along with the characters.

While the action drives the plot, both Sam and Martina are well-developed but imperfect characters. Girl Scouts has taught the nerdy Martina to always be prepared, and her quirks make her very likable. At first, Sam laughs at everything Martina packs and teases her for her encyclopedic knowledge, but Sam soon realizes that without Martina he wouldn’t have survived the journey. Sam begins as a reckless troublemaker, but after the near-death journey, Sam asks himself, “So which Sam Solomon was he? The one who hacked into school computers to change his friend’s grades, or the one who did his best to save the country from treachery that went back more than two hundred years?” In the end, Sam’s character growth and maturity will please and surprise readers.

The Eureka Key will appeal to a wide range of readers. Those who love mystery, puzzles, history, and action will enjoy The Eureka Key. Even though the story has many historical facts, they are integrated into the story, and they never read like a history textbook. Some of the characters are descendants of historical figures and one character is a descendant of Benedict Arnold. While some believe Arnold was a traitor, his descendant reminds readers, “History sometimes forgets the truth.” Readers interested in learning more about Benedict Arnold should read George Washington’s Spies by Claudia Friddell. The characters, mystery, and history combine to make a highly entertaining story that will have readers reaching for the next book in the series, The Eagle’s Quill.

 Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • A man who Sam calls “Aloha” kidnaps Sam, Martina, and Theo. Sam tries to leave clues for others to follow. “A second later, the loudest sound he’d ever heard nearly split his eardrums open. He yelped, and Martina jumped about a foot. . . Aloha was standing behind them with his gun pointed at Sam’s hat, which lay on the ground with a smoking hole through the brim.”
  • Several times someone points a gun at the kids to force them to comply with orders.
  • To find the eureka key, the kids must answer riddles. If they answer incorrectly, a deadly trap awaits them. While trying to figure out a clue, the kids make a mistake and, “The light around them seemed to flare, and Sam stumbled back, blinking madly. . . Then a scream filled the air. It came from Aloha. . .The orange flowers on Aloha’s shirt burst into red flames. He howled in pain, staggering across the plateau, as the fires took hold.”
  • As Aloha is flailing, “Aloha was still holding his gun; it swung toward Theo as the man twisted and wailed. Theo dodged to the side as a bullet cracked in the air, and at the same moment Aloha’s left heel vanished off the edge of the cliff. He toppled and was gone, his screams lengthening.” Aloha dies.
  • The villain, Flintlock, pulls a gun on the kids. When the kids open a secret door, “Theo snapped upright, driving a fistful of rocks into the man’s stomach.” Theo and Martina run, but someone has a hold on Sam. Then, “Something whizzed past Sam’s face, and then Martina’s flashlight cracked his captor right on the bridge of his nose. The hand around Sam’s arm loosened as the man howled.” The kids escape.
  • To escape a trap, Martina connects an electrical circuit to herself. “Martina’s body shook as if she were a puppet with a madman yanking at the strings. . . Martina dropped to the floor as if the puppeteer had tossed her away and lay there—still as death.”
  • The bad guys and the kids are in a room that has a lot of keys hanging from the ceiling. One of the bad guys, Jed, “grabs a key. Sam was sure he could hear electricity leaping from the key to Jed’s hand. The instant his huge fist closed around the key, he was flung across the room, so quickly he didn’t have time to cry out. He crashed to the floor and lay still.”
  • Sam tries to sneak away from the bad guys. Sam “took two steps toward the way out, only to have a bullet blast into the wooden floor in front of him.”
  • A man falls into a mine shaft. “There was a sharp, panicked yell that started loud and got softer and softer. . . until it stopped.” The man dies.
  • During the revolution, Benedict Arnold left one of his contacts to be hanged.
  • One of the villains slaps “Theo across the face. . . Theo stood as solidly as a deeply rooted tree and didn’t make a sound.”
  • To get Sam to comply, one of the thugs grabs Martina. “He grabbed hold of her arm, clamping his other hand over her mouth and nose. He grinned as she made a startled, choking sound.”
  • When Sam makes a smart-aleck remark, “the back of Arnold’s hand smacked into the side of his face.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • Oh my God and Oh, Lord are each used as an exclamation once.
  • Sam thinks someone is a jerk.
  • A man calls someone a pinhead.
  • Martina calls Sam a moron.
  • Heck is used once.

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • Martina tells Sam about Benjamin Franklin. “Franklin said people should try to ‘be like Jesus and Socrates . . . Sacrificing themselves for the common good.’”

Mac Cracks the Code

The Queen of England calls on Mac B. once again! This time, Mac must crack a secret code that has been recovered from a double agent. A series of clues leads Mac to France, to Japan where he comes face-to-face with his arch-nemesis the KGB Man, and to the world headquarters of Nintendo! Is the KGB Man secretly behind all of this? Are Mac’s video game skills good enough to face down his enemy at the Video Game World Championships?

Even though the events in Mac Cracks the Code are at times ridiculous, the story incorporates historical and language lessons into the events. The story teaches spy terminology such as cytologist, as well as portmanteau words. There are also world maps that show Mac’s travel routes, which helps readers understand where countries are in relation to each other. Readers will also be eager to try to figure out the clues to the mystery.

Mac Cracks the Case will entertain even the most reluctant readers with its fast pace and hilarious events. Short sentences, humorous illustrations, and simple vocabulary will help readers build confidence. Video games play a part in the story’s plot, which adds interest for those who like video games. Because several of the characters appear in the previous books, readers will get maximum enjoyment if they read the series in order.

In Mac Cracks the Code, Mac tells his own story with humor and puts a spotlight on the absurd. The conclusion will have readers cheering for Max and groaning when the Queen of England gives Max a gift. The Max B. Kid Spy Series continuously gives readers engaging stories that will have readers laughing out loud. Any reader who enjoys intrigue will want to add the Max B. Kid Spy Series to their reading list.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • The KGB man tells Mac, “You look like a doofus!” Mac uses the same words to describe the KGB man.

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

#Prettyboy Must Die

After his first failed mission, Peter Smith goes undercover at an exclusive school in Colorado. Peter is supposed to be keeping a low profile. When Peter goes out for a late-night run, a classmate snaps a picture of him and posts the caption “See Prettyboy run.” When the picture becomes a viral sensation, Peter knows he’s in trouble. Before the end of the day, Peter’s school is under attack as a terrorist wants revenge. This former-foster-kid turned CIA operative will have to use all of his skills and training to stay alive.

Told from Peter’s point of view, #Prettyboy Must Die starts out with action and intrigue. However, right from the start the plot is over the top and unrealistic. The action continues throughout the story, but there are too many scenes where Peter and his friends unrealistically knock out an adult, professional, or mobster.

Having the story told from Peter’s point of view did not necessarily improve the story’s appeal as he is arrogant and doesn’t believe that others can be an asset. Peter doesn’t think girls can be accomplished and smart, which is shown several times, including when he thinks the hacker cannot be a girl because she is pretty. Girls are portrayed in a negative light once again when a group of girls don’t worry about the danger they face; they just want a picture of #prettyboy.

#Prettyboy Must Die is not a serious spy book, but it is a fast-paced story that leaves the reader wondering who can be trusted. For those looking for an easy-to-read, fun story, #Prettyboy Must Die is a good choice. Even though the violence is not described in detail and is appropriate for younger readers, there is a wide range of profanity that is used often. If you loved Aly Carter’s Gallagher Girls series, you may want to leave #Prettyboy Must Die on the shelf.

Sexual Content

  • Katie changes her clothing in front of Peter. He thinks, “It takes me a second to realize I probably shouldn’t be staring like I’ve just seen the promised land . . . But I can’t help but comment because, you know, Katie. Half-naked. ‘Hey girl, as much as I’d like to, this probably isn’t a good time.’”
  • Peter thinks about a date with Katie, “. . . I remember our one date, our first kiss, and I want to kiss her again. . .” Later in the story, he asks Katie, “Are you sure you didn’t know who I was when I asked you out? Because the way you kissed me. . . I mean, after the movie, in your car—”
  • When Katie sees a black SUV and realizes it has come to pick her up, she kisses Peter. “. . . I damn near forget about Sveta, Rogers, and the entire universe. I hold her like it will be the last time. She kisses me again like it’s only a preview of more to come.”

Violence

  • The CIA raids an arms dealer’s hideout and a man is killed. “Marchuk Sr. is now on the floor three feet inside the house, knocked that far back by the shot that has to have killed him instantly.” The raid is described over four pages. During the raid, Peter is shot.
  • When a classroom is taken hostage, the chemistry teacher tries to tackle Bad Guy #2. The bad guy puts the teacher in a “choke hold. Before I can even process what’s happening, the bad guy is already done with Mr. Valaquez, who he lets slump to the floor, unconscious. Or worse.”
  • Someone kicks one of the bad guys. “It doesn’t take a genius to figure out where, considering all the moaning.”
  • A bad guy hits a school employee and Peter hears “the sound of a fist hitting bone.” Later in the story, Peter sees a teacher who is hiding, and “I throw a left hook across his face and knock him the hell out. . . I’m pissed he’s in here hiding out instead of heading back to his class. . .”
  • When Peter tricks a bad guy into coming into a classroom. “That’s when I land the steel baton against his pterion, the weakest point on the skull, immediately incapacitating him. Or possibly killing him.” He takes out two other bad guys in the same way.
  • Katie is captured and a bad guy beats her. “. . . Officer Andrews is holding Katie by one arm, or more like holding her up.” Peter is tied to a chair and when he struggles “he hauls off and lands a right cross that feels like a sledgehammer against my face.” Later, as the bad guy is talking to Peter, he hits him in the face. Katie saves the day with, “A brutal kick to his junk . . . she hooks her foot around his ankle, sweeps his legs out from under him, then straddles his back. I’m certain it’s an image I won’t soon forget—girl of my dreams on top of the guy who wants to kill me.”
  • When the bad guy begins to recover from “the ball-kick she (Katie) gave him and is starting to squirm . . . she grabs Marchuk’s hair and slams his face into the floor, knocking him out.”
  • Peter attacks a bad guy. “. . . I land my fist against the side of his head. . .and kick him in the jewels. That brings him to his knees, but I know it won’t be for long.”
  • Peter and Katie go after a bad guy and he threatens to shoot them, but Peter shoots first. “When the bullet hits his left knee, he goes down before he can get off a single round. I hear the sound of metal against bone. Maglite against skull.”
  • Someone tries to use a drone to kill Peter and Katie. “Just as Katie takes off running, I hear a car come over the ridge, followed by a loud thump. I turn back in time to see Sveta on the car’s hood, her phone flying through the air. . . The car screeches to a stop and Sveta slides off and onto the ground, moaning. For a brief moment, I regret that she’s still alive.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • A character said, “My layabout son takes nothing seriously, is only concerned about spending my money on women and drink.”
  • Peter gives the principal tickets to the game. After the game, the principal tells Peter, “I damn near went broke on stadium beer, but that’s what I get for celebrating a little too hard.” Later in the story, he tells Peter, “I’d been sick all morning, hungover. . .”
  • When Peter overhears someone say bank robbers are in the school, he thinks, “the average bank robber does so on impulse and out of desperation, usually some loser meth-head needing a hit.”
  • Katie injects several bad guys with carfentanil, a drug that is “ten thousand times stronger than morphine, so it acts quickly, and it only takes a drop or two.”
  • Peter and his friend are captured, and “then the crazy chick starts singing a kid’s chant to figure out which one of us she will shoot first.” Before she can shoot them, “Katie falls through the ceiling and onto the psycho’s back.”
  • When a bad guy crushes a boy’s hand, Katie fires her gun, but the bullet accidently hits Peter. Peter wants to know why he isn’t dead and Katie tells him, “It doesn’t shoot bullets. It was supposed to shoot nerve gas. . .”

Language

  • Profanity is used often and includes: ass, asshole, damn, dickhead, fucking, goddamn, hell, and pissed off.
  • When a teacher sees three incapacitated bad guys, he said, “Jesus H. Christ—are those terrorists?” Then he asks Peter, “Who the hell are you?”
  • “Oh My God” is used as an exclamation several times. For example, a girl says, “Oh my God. I sit two rows over from him in calculus. . . How did I not notice how hot he is?”
  • Peter sees a classmate and thinks, “I see Carlisle’s resident douche.”
  • When a teacher is looking for a bug, Peter thinks, “Despite the crazy that is happening all around us, watching The Douche have a near breakdown is fucking hilarious.”

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have To Kill You

Cammie doesn’t just feel invisible, she is trained to be invisible. After all, when a girl goes to spy school, blending into a crowd is an art as well as a talent. However, when Cammie catches the eye of a gorgeous boy—a normal, not-spy boy—being invisible isn’t an option anymore. Cammie quickly discovers that navigating the world of romance and relationships is much harder than mastering fourteen different languages and advanced encryption at school.

Cammie puts all her spy skills to the test as she tries to keep her true identity hidden from her boyfriend and her boyfriend a secret from her spy school. She knows that she will never be able to reveal that the Gallagher Academy, which most people think is a school for rich snobs, is really a school for spies. Yet for the first time in her life, Cammie is getting a glimpse of what it means to be normal.

Although Cammie and her friends are geniuses when it comes to chemical warfare and breaking CIA codes in computer class, they are completely clueless when it comes to boys.  A new roommate, a new teacher, and a covert operation class lead to laugh-out-loud situations that are simultaneously filled with suspense. Through first-person narration, Carter creates a fun, sweet story and a unique setting in which to explore the well-known troubles teens have in understanding the opposite sex.

Carter successfully creates a believable world where girls can accomplish just about anything. The characters are lovable while still being grounded in reality. Additionally, the story is full of action and explores teen romance in a wholesome way that is perfect for younger readers.

 Sexual Content

  • When talking about an attractive teacher’s tone of voice, the narrator said, “We all heard, I think you’re the most beautiful woman in the world, and I’d be honored if you’d bear my children.”
  • A CIA member, “once sweet-talked a Russian dignitary into dressing in drag and carrying a beach ball full of liquid nitrogen under his shirt like a pregnant lady.”
  • The girls wonder if the gorgeous guy is a “honey pot” and then struggle to explain what a honey pot is.
  • A friend asks the narrator if she has, “been to second base yet?”
  • The narrator receives her first kiss, and then later kisses her boyfriend so he will stop talking.
  • A boy talks about mooning the girls at the Gallagher Academy.

Violence

  • A teacher throws a letter opener at another teacher’s head, which they stop with a book.
  • In a fit of anger, a student grabs a classmate’s arm, puts it behind her back, and rips out her diamond nose ring.
  • During a mission debriefing, a student is shown a picture of her friend’s bloody and swollen face. The teacher explains that during torture, what hurts most is, “listening to her friend scream…she will be screaming for about six hours, until she becomes so dehydrated she can’t form sounds.” After the lesson, her friend walks in unharmed.
  • As part of a final test in the covert class, Cammie is “kidnapped” and a fight ensues. She is locked in a room, blindfolded, and tied to a chair.
  • When the narrator meets a girl who she thinks might be her competition, the narrator thinks about her ability, “to kill you in your sleep and make it look like an accident, you silly vapid, two bit. . .”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • It is mentioned that as part of an interrogation tactics class, the students are, “under the influence of sodium pentothal,” and Cammie mentions being a wiz at poison-concocting.
  • A student smokes a cigarette.
  • When her friend announces she has bad news about Cammie’s crush, the narrator wonders if the bad news is that, “he’s taking drugs that will prepare him for a sex change operation.”
  • A student wonders if her first covert mission is going to be, “busting up a drug cartel that’s operating out of a night club.”

Language

  • A class is described as, “damn hard.”
  • When getting assigned a mission, the narrator said it’s like getting, “a gold-freaking-star.”
  • A student uses the phrase, “bloody hell.”
  • A student calls another student a “b—” and mentions the “B word.”  The B word is implied but never spoken.

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • Although religion isn’t discussed directly, Cammie pretends to be homeschooled for religious reasons. Cammie also wears a cross and carries a What Would Jesus Do? ink pen in her bag because it helps her cover story.
  • There is a conversation about how the Bible says people have free will, but a character doesn’t feel like that applies to his life because of his parents’ expectations.

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