Chris Rylander, author of The Fourth Stall saga, recommends stories for kids featuring agents and espionage.
There’s just something captivating about spies. It likely has a lot to do with the inherent and relentless danger of their trade, or perhaps it’s the allure of pretending to be someone else as a profession. Whatever the reason, I will always be naturally drawn toward spy stories. Here are some of my personal favorites.
The Case of the Case of the Mistaken Identity (Brixton Brothers) by Mac Barnett The book both perfectly lampoons and captures the adventure and excitement of being an amateur sleuth. It’s wacky, clever, hilarious, and of course contains a whole lot of spying and sneaking around in disguise. Its lightning pace and constant hilarity will keep even reluctant readers up way past bedtime. (And it also just might generate a new wave of amateur detectives in the process.)
Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh No spy book list could be a credible spy book list without containing Harriet the Spy, right? This is the book that did it first and the best, while highlighting the real dangers of being a middle school spy: making and keeping real friends. Classics become classics because they transcend things like generational differences and reluctant readers. This is a book that any reader at any age would have a seriously hard time putting down. Plus, I will always love books with atypical protagonists as astute and brashly honest as Harriet.
I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak Not all great spy books are necessarily about “spies.” Some of the best and most intriguing spy work is sometimes done by ordinary people pulled into the world of sleuthing by extraordinary circumstances. This is one of my favorite books and it includes incredible mysteries, a lot of humor, and some great detective work by the seemingly hopeless protagonist, Ed Kennedy. I was hooked from page one, and I suspect almost any reluctant reader would be also. After all, who could resist a book that opens with a bank robbery?
Spy School by Stuart Gibbs This book is simply an example of a great, action-packed, good old-fashioned spy book. From the moment Ben Ripley is recruited by the CIA to come to their Spy Academy, the reader is drawn in to a world filled with quirky characters, humor, and all the classic spy tropes. What helps this stand out even more is that unlike most spy stories, with unrealistically suave one-dimensional heroes, Ben has real depth and is far from the perfect secret agent candidate. And that only makes the reader want to root for him even more.