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From the Spy Next Door series, volume 1

by Jay Cooper ; illustrated by Jay Cooper

Pub Date: Feb. 28th, 2017
ISBN: 978-0-545-93339-1
Publisher: Scholastic

Until recently, Dexter Drabner only dreamed of being a world-famous secret spy.

But when a mysterious, mustachioed man gives Dexter’s science teacher radioactive broccoli to feed his pet rat for an experiment on harnessing rat gas as a natural energy resource, the white third-grader must find his inner hero to save his school from destruction. While the hyperenergetic illustrations and running fart joke will likely appeal to some young readers, especially boys who may otherwise be reluctant to pick up a book, the plot feels both rushed and underdeveloped. Far too much time is spent on flatulent rats and far too little time on key topics like Dexter’s spy training. And whatever happened to the mustache man? He is all but forgotten until a mention on the very last page. The story does, however, have some strengths. Though it is not integral to the plot, it is refreshing to see some diversity suggested in illustrations of the classroom. Additionally, girls will appreciate white seventh-grader Big K, Dexter’s handler and a strong, sassy female character. Agent B.O.A.R.D., a souped-up skateboard and Dexter’s crime-fighting partner, is a cool gadget with lots of potential for fun. And then there is Dexter, an unassuming Everykid whose willingness to jump right in and save his school makes him easy to root for.

A gassed-up, gaseous spy story without much spying.

(Adventure. 7-12)