Mac Undercover: Mac B., Kid Spy, Book 1

Book review by
Jan Carr, Common Sense Media
Mac Undercover: Mac B., Kid Spy, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Rollicking spy adventure is loaded with humor.

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Kids say

age 9+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Info about England: Queen of England, Beefeaters, Crown Jewels, Tower of London, 1,000 years of kings, Henry VIII, William the Conqueror, Oliver Cromwell. Info about France: Arc de Triomphe, Louvre Museum, famous pieces of art. Info about Russia: Cyrillic alphabet, former Soviet Union, KGB, 1917 Revolution. Ways technology was different in the 1980s. Pressure points of the body.

Positive Messages

Sometimes when life is dull and drab, adventure calls. You can rise to the challenges thrown your way. Implicit message that reading, history, and learning are fun.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Mac accepts the challenges that are offered him. He actively participates in life, diving into the adventure. He uses his smarts to follow clues. He's an engaging, dry-witted narrator.

Violence & Scariness

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Mac Undercover: Mac B., Kid Spy, Book 1 is a very funny chapter book, the first in a new series by Mac Barnett, and illustrated by Mike Lowery. Barnett is known as an advocate for getting boys more interested in reading and is acclaimed for his many popular picture books, including Sam & Dave Dig a Hole and Extra Yarn, which won Caldecott Honors. Here he injects his trademark humor into a book for older readers, starting with the claim that this wild, outlandish spy story is an actual memoir of his youth. Enlisted by the Queen of England to recover some stolen Crown Jewels, young Mac travels to London, Paris, and Moscow in a journey studded with dry humor and historical tidbits. There are scads of illustrations to keep kids engaged, and they'll be happy to know there's a sequel on the way.

User Reviews

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Kid, 9 years old June 11, 2019

spy kid

I really like this book because I like reading spy books and I like the pictures

What's the story?

MAC UNDERCOVER: MAC B., KID SPY, BOOK 1 tells the "true" story of author Mac Barnett, who claims that, as a kid growing up in California, he got a call from the Queen enlisting his help recovering some stolen Crown Jewels. When Mac flies to London to investigate, he follows the trail of the missing Coronation Spoon to Paris, where he gets caught up in another theft at the Louvre Museum. The plot thickens when he ends up in Moscow, negotiating with a slippery KGB agent. Will Mac recover the jeweled spoon and the famous art as well? And what could the thief possibly want in return?

Is it any good?

You don't get much more kid friendly than this rollicking, illustrated spy adventure. Mac Undercover: Mac B., Kid Spy, Book 1 is pure fun to read, as the dry-witted kid narrator is whisked off to England, France, Russia, and home again, all in service to the Queen of England. Author Mac Barnett has a reputation as a sly and witty prankster, and kids will love his insistence that this fantastic story "actually happened to me." A Top Secret note opens the book, claiming, "I was a spy for the Queen of England when I was a kid. It was a different time. 1989, to be exact."

The jokes are equally divided between the text, with its fast-paced silliness, and cartoon-like illustrations by Mike Lowery. There's art on most pages, and it delivers some of the punch lines; for instance, throwing shade on British cookies by labeling a dry-looking biscuit both "Dog Biscuit (USA)" and "Biscuit (England)." Seamlessly woven into the fun is some solid nonfiction content -- including historical notes about the countries Mac visits.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about whether Mac Undercover: Mac B., Kid Spy, Book 1 is fact or fiction. Do you think Mac Barnett really was a spy in his childhood? Does it make it more fun that he says so?

  • How many countries and cities does Mac visit on his mission? Did you know anything about them before you read the story? Did you learn anything new?

  • What are the funniest parts of the book to you? Which jokes are in the story and which are in the art? How do you think the author and illustrator decided which jokes to put in which?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love humor

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