The Impossible Crime: Mac B., Kid Spy, Book 2

Book review by
Jan Carr, Common Sense Media
The Impossible Crime: Mac B., Kid Spy, Book 2 Book Poster Image
Inspired silliness in laugh-out-loud spy mystery.

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

Educational Value

Locked room mysteries. Geography: Castro Valley, England, Ireland, County Meath, Dunsany Castle. Ireland has had many invaders. Info about British royalty: Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, beefeaters, the Corgi Room, Colonel Blood attempted to steal Crown Jewels in 1671. Flag of Great Britain = Union Jack; the Queen’s flag = the Royal Standard. British English v. American English: trousers vs. pants. Story of St. Patrick and the snakes. Elevated vocabulary: panache, pilfer, ingrate, paddocks, cryptically. Old arcade games like air hockey, Skee Ball.

Positive Messages

Sometimes the answer to a puzzling mystery is right before your eyes. Don't get misdirected by confusing details, look for the simple explanation. People from different countries can work together despite cultural differences and misunderstandings. Be open to adventure when it calls. If you're bullied at school and don't get invited to the bullies' birthday parties, you can still distinguish yourself. It's good to carry a notebook and pencil. Books make excellent presents. Implicit message that learning about history and different cultures is fun.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Though Mac's a typical American video-game-loving kid, he’s game for adventure and rises to the challenges set by the Queen. He copes with bullies and with not knowing things that are expected of him by having a funny take on his circumstances. He's interested in learning.

Violence & Scariness

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Impossible Crime: Mac B., Kid Spy, Book 2 by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Mike Lowery, is the sequel to their very funny Mac Undercover: Mac B., Kid Spy, Book 1 and is just as fun. Barnett, a master of inspired silliness, claims these books are true stories, that he actually was a spy when he was a kid, in service to the Queen of England. The combination of jokes and embedded educational content make this book perfect for kids graduating to reading chapter books on their own.

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What's the story?

In THE IMPOSSIBLE CRIME: MAC B., KID SPY, BOOK 2, Mac’s once again called by the Queen of England to work as a spy. This time, someone's sent an advance note warning they’re going to steal the Crown Jewels. When the Queen hides the jewels in a locked room with Mac and a surly beefeater, Mac's supposed to take the first shift as guard, but falls asleep. When he wakes up, the jewels are gone! Tracking down the thief takes him to a castle in Ireland with a historical backstory about 17th century Colonel Blood, who tried to steal the jewels and failed. How did the modern-day thief get into the locked room? Is the answer right before Mac's eyes?

Is it any good?

This clever locked-room mystery about the theft of the Crown Jewels is a whodunit and howdunit, but the real mystery is how Mac Barnett packs in so much fun -- and actual history! The Impossible Crime: Mac B., Kid Spy, Book 2 has abundant illustrations and a high joke-per-page ratio, and the narrator is young 7-year-old Mac himself, a video-game loving, wisecracking kid who does his American best to adapt to the demands of spying for the British Queen.

The text is droll, both Mac's deadpan commentary and the Queen's starchy dialogue, and the jokes include cross-Atlantic underwear gags -- American pants vs. British trousers. One chapter's just a two-sentence punchline. Another's padded with five pages of spelled-out numbers, from one to two hundred twenty-three, as Mac tries to stay awake counting stones (spoiler alert: He doesn't). The story's enlivened throughout with Lowery's cartoony art. Yet somehow, there's lots of historical content, and ideas that stretch kids' brains, for instance, the concept of locked-room mysteries, and comparisons of British versus American English. This highly entertaining second book will have kids clamoring for a third.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the concept of locked-room mysteries in The Impossible Crime: Mac B., Kid Spy, Book 2. Do you and your friends tell locked-room mystery riddles like Mac and his friends? Did you solve this one before Mac did?

  • Do you like video games like Mac does? How are the video games from his childhood different from ones you play?

  • How does the book point out some of the differences between the United States and England? What did you learn anything about England and Ireland, and the relationship of those two countries?

Book details

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For kids who love humor and mystery

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