A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that City Spies, the first book in a series by James Ponti, involves rebellious, sometimes delinquent, but definitely talented and diverse young characters recruited by a spy agency for assorted world-saving missions. Readers will pick up all kinds of specialized knowledge of computer security systems, pattern recognition, tech- and science-related history, and lots more, including Spanish and French phrases. The title characters range in age from 12 to 15, hailing from Brooklyn, Sydney, Rio de Janeiro, Katmandu, and Paris (via Rwanda), and we learn a lot about their character-building origins. As is typical of spy adventures, dangerous situations abound, and two spies have recently been murdered by the bad guys. There's assorted hand-to-hand fighting, development of pickpocketing skills, hacking into government computers, and more. An adult character is trying to find his children, who have been "disappeared" by his ex-wife.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Sara Martinez, 12, thought she was doing something great when she hacked into the New York City foster care system to expose the cruel and criminal doings of her current foster parents. Instead of rescuing her fellow residents, though, she's looking at a long, computer-deprived stretch in juvenile hall. Things take an unexpected turn when a man she's never seen steps in as her public defender and she quickly finds herself recruited to the group soon to be known as CITY SPIES. The group includes Paris, a Rwanda-born French street kid with excellent survival skills; Kat (short for Katmandu), who has superhuman pattern-recognition abilities; Sydney, whose passion for the underdog and amazing ability to deal with crazy situations were entirely wasted in an Australian boarding school; and Brazilian Rio, who's kept himself alive all these years stealing, picking pockets, and otherwise deceiving the eye with sleight of hand. Together, under the supervision of mysterious MI6 figures Mother and Monty, they're quite a team. But will they be a match for the evil syndicate Umbra, which seems to have something planned for an upcoming science competition? Or will they become the latest victims of the enigmatic but definitely deadly Purple Thumb?
Is it any good?
James Ponti's series about a diverse, multitalented crew of young secret agents is off to a rollicking start, pitting them against a murderous villain known as the Purple Thumb. Taking the names of their hometowns, Brooklyn, age 12 (computer hacking); Kat(mandu), 13 (codes and cryptography); Sydney, 14 (ops and problem-solving); Rio, 12 (pickpocketing, magic tricks, sleight of hand); and Paris, 15 (survival skills), are a formidable team likely to face many (highly entertaining) challenges in volumes to come. Danger, exotic locations, and moments of brilliance ensue as the kids battle the dark forces of Umbra, and their mentor searches the world for his missing kids.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about stories featuring a team of misfits recruited for their unusual talents suited to some vital task, like the main characters in City Spies. Why do you think this is such a popular theme? And why is it never the regular, ordinary people who get recruited for these jobs?
The characters in City Spies come from very different places around the world. How do you think their hometowns influenced their development as people?
Do you like to learn and perform magic tricks? Does it teach you to see things differently, maybe be more observant?
- Author: James Ponti
- Genre: Adventure
- Topics: Adventures, Friendship, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Aladdin
- Publication date: March 10, 2020
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 384
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: October 30, 2020
Our editors recommend
For kids who love adventures and spy stories
Themes & Topics
Browse titles with similar subject matter.
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.