A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.