PLAYING WITH FIRE by Bruce Hale

PLAYING WITH FIRE

From the "School for S.P.I.E.S." series, volume 1
by , illustrated by
Age Range: 11 - 13

KIRKUS REVIEW

Thirteen-year-old fosterling Max Segredo knows he’s just one stop away from juvie. Luckily, that stop turns out to be the Merry Sunshine Orphanage, where the third floor is off-limits due to a secret science project, and the house rules include “No unsupervised gunplay.”

Staffed with tough instructors with names like “Styx” and “Stones,” the unusually secure “orphanage” turns out to be a vocational school to train students in “Systematic Protection, Intelligence, and Espionage Services.” Max fits in nicely, until coded messages suggesting that his father, a spy himself, is still alive spark an urgent need to escape. Hale threads the narrative with colorful metaphors and throwaway lines (“But his search was as fruitless as an all-beef buffet”) and festoons it with high- and low-tech tools of spycraft. He ultimately sends his diverse cast of student spies on a field trip/mission that climaxes in a face-off with shadowy LOTUS—a rival organization with the requisite black limos, palatial hidden headquarters, agents who dress like “catalog models for Victoria’s Evil Secret” and even a shark tank. Dorman adds a handful of dramatic full-page scenes, and Hale closes with a note on ciphers. One character’s sudden murder aside, the tone is mostly light, with family issues and conflicting loyalties (driven by troubling revelations about Max’s dad) for added texture.

This lightweight kid-spy romp should find some eager readers. (Adventure. 11-13)

Pub Date: June 25th, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-4231-6850-8
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 2013




MORE BY BRUCE HALE

ChildrenTHICKER THAN WATER by Bruce Hale
by Bruce Hale
ChildrenBIG BAD BABY by Bruce Hale
by Bruce Hale
ChildrenMONSTERS ON THE LOOSE! by Bruce Hale
by Bruce Hale

MORE BY BRANDON DORMAN

ChildrenJOSHUA DREAD by Lee  Bacon
by Lee Bacon
ChildrenGRASSHOPPER MAGIC by Lynne Jonell
by Lynne Jonell
ChildrenGIANT DANCE PARTY by Betsy Bird
by Betsy Bird

SIMILAR BOOKS SUGGESTED BY OUR CRITICS:

ChildrenPOINT BLANK by Anthony Horowitz
by Anthony Horowitz
ChildrenSPY, SPY AGAIN by Tina Holdcroft
by Tina Holdcroft
ChildrenM IS FOR MAMA'S BOY by Michael Buckley
by Michael Buckley