Last year I was approached by author Kate Scott, asking me if I would review the first of her new series of books for children: Spies in Disguise; Boy in Tights. I am always looking for children’s books that are fresh, appealing, and suitable for children who are good readers, but not yet great readers. Boy in Tights seemed to fit the bill. I loved it, my son loved it, and we were so impressed with it that Kate promised us a follow up copy of the sequel: ‘Boy in a Tutu.’
It arrived a couple of weeks ago, and I’ve been looking for a quiet evening to settle down with it.
I’ve just finished it, and I have to say that it was not a disappointment. In fact, I think I enjoyed it a little more than the first book, partly because the characters are beginning to bed in nicely now, and there is a chance, in the second book, to develop sub plots that were only just germinating in the first book.
The series tell the story of Joe, a young boy who has his life rudely uprooted one day when he arrives home from school to find that his parents are not the boring, ordinary parents he had long thought them. In fact, they are super spies. Their cover has been blown, and with Joe they must go on the run and make new identities for themselves.
In order to protect themselves better, they decide that Joe must become Josie, and suddenly Joe gets to experience wearing dresses, having pinkness thrust upon him and being called all sorts of nauseating pet names. He hates being a girl until his burgeoning friendship with tomboy, Sam, makes him see life a little differently. And of course, he gets inadvertently pulled into a case.
In this second book, the themes remain the same, Joe is still Josie, and just as he is beginning to feel pretty comfortable in the existence he has carved for himself, his parents spring upon him the chance to earn his spy stripes. He jumps at it, only to find that going undercover at the local leisure centre in order to find out who is planning to steal the world famous football memorabilia from their exhibition, will require him to take intensive ballet lessons.
The stories are very, very silly, although I like the fact that at heart they deal with pretty sensitive stuff. They force Joe to see what it is like to be a girl, and how it’s not all sweetness and light. In ballet for example, he finds that it isn’t quite as wet as he imagined, and it might even help his football skills. I love the fact that his friendship with Sam becomes deeper and more interesting too.
The action is fast paced, and the book is a real page turner. I finished it in just over an hour. For a child aged between seven and ten, the ideal age range for the material, I think they would find it a satisfying read without it being too daunting. There are plenty of illustrations to break up the text, and the chapters are short and attainable in terms of setting reading goals. The language is not too tricky, but it does pose challenges which will stretch a newly confident reader. I would recommend it for both boys and girls. Its humour, its inclusiveness and its gender neutral marketing will work for everyone.
I look forward to reading the third instalment, Boy in Heels.