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Summary: Will Wand (12) fancies himself the next James Bond. Well, not quite. He calls himself 003.5! School's out and he is looking forward to a summer of spying. Someone is stealing business away from his mom's ad agency, which means Will has his first case. Except that his arch enemy / cousin Penelope is visiting for six weeks, and the Monster (aka Tristan, his little brother) always seems to be underfoot. Mom NEEDS Will, especially with Dad's death, but is he ready to go it alone in those Big Boy shoes? Family relationships take center stage in this fast-paced adventure for middle grade readers.
Type of Reading: bedtime story, independent reading, read aloud book
Recommended Age: read together: 9 and Up; read yourself: 10 and Up
Interest Level: 9 to 12
Reading Level: 5.2
Young Reader Reaction: Review pending.
Adult Reader Reaction: Cute. The story is sweet and reminds me of some of the kid spy shows / movies, except that the plot is much more focused around the Wand family and its personalities. At just 129 pages, the story moves quickly. I liked the use of code and the way Will and Pen demonstrated decoding for the reader. The title, though, doesn't fit, and the "living near CIA Headquarters" is overplayed and irrelevant. The story is set in Northern Virginia - but not a realistic one, as the kids can ride their bikes to Mom's office building.
Pros: Lots of action, a little bit of code, and a few turns of British English make this a fast read for readers.
Cons: Most readers will recognize this as fantasy. There are some unrealistic events / scenes where readers may decide to "try this at home." Using microphone bugs to collect information is not a 'hobby' and kids (preteens/teens) who think its a cool idea need to understand the legalities.
Borrow or Buy: Borrow. It is fun to read and recommended for sharing with young readers. It isn't a book I'd keep for my grandkids, though.
Educational Themes: Run with the code breaking themes and (a) create codes of your own for fun; and (b) find more books to learn about different types of codes and spycraft. There is a subtle theme of grief, with Will missing his dad. Because it is not "front and center" in the story, this may be a very good choice for starting a conversation on the topic with a child / teen who is dealing with the loss of a parent.
Notes: The author donated a copy of this book knowing that we would consider it for review and provide an independent, unbiased profile. This book will be given to a nonprofit to help readers in need.
Literary Categories: Fiction - mystery, adventure, family, death and loss, middle grade
Date(s) Reviewed: October 2015
Other Reviews: No Critics Reviews found; see reader feedback at amazon.com.