Thursday, July 4, 2013

For Undercover Readers

What parent can resist this bedtime negotiation: "One more chapter? Pleeeze?"

DOUBLE VISION by F.T. Bradley, HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2012.

“Who, me?”  This could be the theme song of 12 year old Lincoln Baker. He’s his teacher’s field trip nightmare.  Sometimes Linc makes trouble on purpose, but usually it’s for a good cause, like helping out a friend.  Other times, it looks as if Trouble has Linc on speed dial. If this is your son or daughter, reader identification will be immediate.

Linc’s family consists of two loving parents who barely keep the family finances above the red mark. Mom is a nurse and Dad runs a car shop which struggles. Grandpa watches crime shows on TV and absorbs useful tips. I hope we see him in future books.

A software program matches Linc’s face on YouTube with the face of a missing secret agent. How did Linc’s face get on YouTube? It’s a fun story for the reader, not for Linc. Enter two agents from Pandora. (Don’t call them spies. They prefer “secret agents.”) They are close to taking down a criminal organization, but the whole mission is at risk now that top kid agent Benjamin Green has disappeared. The agents see Linc’s match to Benjamin as their opportunity to do Linc a major save the family fortune favor (think reason for YouTube notoriety.). All Linc has to do is stand in for the missing agent. It won’t take long. Linc has much to gain and very little, probably nothing at all, to lose. Said the spider to the fly. 

And we’re off. Twists, turns, friends who are villains or secret agents who turn rogue or might be, instead, deep under cover. Linc dashes from crisis to cliffhanger. The reader just keeps on ploughing through the chapters. It’s hard work to write a book that reads this easily and the writer has been careful to learn her craft.

Linc and his friends’ middle school voices are authentic and consistent.  Henry, a brilliant agent boy wonder scientist teams up with Linc. “The key is to be smarter,” says Henry. He will surely be given more room to shine in future books.

All this talk of future books is more than a wish of mine. Double Vision is the first of a planned series. Double Vision: Code Name 711 will be available in October.  Couple this series for 8-12 with Sound Bender by Lin Oliver and parents who say with a sigh, “my kid is a reluctant reader” will soon enjoy deleting “reluctant” from that sentence.

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