- The Spy Next Door: Mutant Rat Attack by Jay Cooper
ISBN 978-0-545-93297-4 $9.99
Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 2-4
Dexter wants to be a spy, and he gets his chance when his science teacher goes from amateur rat-fart researcher to full-on mad scientist. A mishap (or was it?) with a skateboard lands Dexter in a secret spy agency, run by Big K, a tough kid who wears an eye patch and isn’t afraid to speak her mind. Off Dexter goes with his new high-tech skateboard to stop the giant rampaging (gassy) rat and save the principal kidnapped by the villainous rodent. It’s a nice point here that Dexter is an unassuming, background sort of kid and therefore actually perfect for spy work; Big K reinforces the notion that flashy heroics might work for superheroes, but they are terrible for blending in (while cool tech gadgets bring a touch of supercharged action). It’s not quite clear if this wants to be a book about farting (a key feature in both the text and the zany illustrations), spies, wacky schools, or a mashup, but the end result is kinetic and frenetic, if slightly muddled, fun. Dav Pilkey fans, of [End Page 262] course, will find many things to appreciate here, and budding spies will find enough detective work to keep them interested.