A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Grace is Chinese-American, and Sophie is fascinated by Chinese culture, so kids will learn a little about some aspects of it. Sophie frequently quotes Sun Tzu and mentions tai chi moves, and concepts of yin-yang and feng shui are briefly explained. Beginning French vocabulary pops up a few times, and electromagnetic principles are touched on at one point. The book's not intended to educate kids, but it might provide a jumping-off point for further investigation.
The central theme is don't jump to conclusions. Sophie learns this the hard way when her false conclusions cause big problems. Balancing this lesson with that of trusting your instincts, yourself and your friends is something kids will have to think about. (Still, at least one jumped-to conclusion turns out to be correct.)
Positive Role Models
Sophie, Grace, and Trista are great girl role models: smart, active, independent, unafraid to act, and in Trista's case, gloriously self-confident. Boy role models fall a bit short. Sophie's crush, Rob, seems nice enough, although we don't get to know him at all. Schoolmate Trent is a full-on bully, mostly verbally, and suffers no consequences for it. Sophie's older brother, Jake, is mainly an annoyance but is capable of showing he cares. Her parents are largely absent, and she spends after-school hours with her nutty grandfather. Most adults are laughable, ineffective, or villainous. But Sophie's and Gracie's parents, while not often seen, are positive influences.
Violence & Scariness
The story has mildly violent and scary bookends but the bulk has no violence. An early spying adventure has violent imagery of someone hacking with a cleaver and of blood spattered all around, which is soon revealed to have been harmless. A past incident is related in which a high-school swim team is electrocuted, resulting in three deaths. A large man tackles a young girl, injuring her ribs and shoulders, although not seriously. In one confrontation, the girls are threatened with a gun; shots are heard but no one's injured. Grace is afraid of water, and in a disturbing incident, she's repeatedly dunked in the ocean by an adult. Sophie knocks the adult unconscious by hitting her in the head with a boot heel.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Sophie's older brother, Jake, comes home once with hickeys on his neck. Early on, frequent mention is made of a character's large (enhanced) breasts, referred to as "boobs."
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Products & Purchases
A lot of products are mentioned by name. Sophie wears Pumas, Grace reads Teen Vogue, and characters always drink Coke products. Most uses seem generic, like Googling something, or intended to establish character, such as a doctor driving a Lexus.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Grandpa is known to enjoy drinking beer with his war veteran buddies down at the VFW. He isn't directly portrayed doing so, but once he's overly jolly, and once sleeping deeply, and Sophie mentions that it's probably because he's had a few beers. Another character's breath smells of coffee and cigarettes.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Wig in the Window is a fun addition to the middle-school-spy-adventure genre, featuring admirable, smart seventh graders Sophie and her friends Grace and Trista, who take action when they suspect someone is up to no good. There's very little violence, though in one scene, a large man tackles a girl, but she's not seriously injured. In another, the girls are threatened with a gun. And in one disturbing incident, a girl is repeatedly dunked in the ocean by an adult before the adult gets knocked unconscious. There's a reference to a high-school swim team that was electrocuted, resulting in three deaths. The book's climax is a bit scary, with the girls in peril, but it's nothing tweens can't handle. Bodily function humor will keep younger readers laughing. There's some verbal bullying without consequences, perhaps because it doesn't seem to bother the bully's target.
Is It Any Good?
Deftly written, THE WIG IN THE WINDOW is a delightful new addition to the genre of middle-school spy caper. It's funny, Sophie is a likeable and realistic heroine, and the plot will keep kids in suspense. Adults may recognize the similarity to Alfred Hitchcock's great Rear Window, neatly re-imagined for 8-to-12-year-olds.
Impressive first-time author Kristen Kittscher never talks down to kids, yet stays on target for the age group. She keeps the reader guessing without losing the story's thread and provides real page-turner excitement without being too scary or violent.
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.