Monday, April 8, 2013

Spy Pick: Spy Camp

Spy Camp
by Stuart Gibbs
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
336 pages

Cleverly comedic, Spy Camp is a laugh-out-loud boisterous romp!

Ben Ripley, aka Smokescreen,  is thrilled that his first year of spy school is almost over. He's looking forward to hanging with his buddy Mike, but SPYDER, an enemy espionage organization, has other plans for Ben. Someone leaves a cryptic message in Ben's dorm--that SPYDER is coming for Ben. He doesn't know where to turn, but he does know that Erica, the best spy in school, will have his back.

The principal calls Ben to the office to inform him that he will have to attend spy camp during the summer. Spy camp? What about Ben's plans to chill for a few months? This ruins his plans for the summer, but spy camp looks least at first. Maybe Ben will be safe from SPYDER at camp.

Ben's spy school classmates attend spy camp along with some exchange students from England. The camp looks normal with cabins and a mess hall, but instead of swimming and canoeing, training consists of physical training including tedious runs and weapons training includes bow and arrow and tomahawks. SPYDER has infiltrated the camp and threatens Ben--he must agree to work for them, or else! Ben shares this information with Erica and camp-mates Chip, Zoe, and Warren. Erica's famous spy father Alexander Hale "drops" in to save the day. Pun intended--Hale parachutes into the camp wearing a tuxedo and dripping with 007 worthy attitude. Erica and Ben both  know that her father is a blatant failure and a phony. Alexander Hale is a bumbling idiot who takes credit for saving every operation he's ever been involved in, even when the credit is due to someone else. Because of his unsoiled reputation as a world class spy, Hale receives hero status and the kids at camp regard him as a Bond-like legend.

When it's decided to move Ben from the camp, his friends go along for the bus ride. Alex Hale accompanies the kids. SPYDER targets their escape and if not for Erica's grandfather, Ben would be a prisoner. Cyrus Hale saves the day and comes out of retirement for his granddaughter. SPYDER has secret plans which involve Cyrus, and the no one else has any idea that SPYDER is merely using Ben as a pawn.

Ben is funny and self-deprecating. He makes fun of the CIA, spy school and the government. Ben says, "It might seem surprising that the principal of the CIA's academy for future intelligent agents wasn't intelligent himself--but then, the CIA and the academy are run by the government." Of his spy school experience, Ben says, "While my first few weeks at spy school had been difficult--I'd nearly been assassinated, kidnapped and blown up--things had got much better after people had stopped trying to kill me." At camp, Ben finds out that the armory is a bit different than the one at his school. Instead of modern day guns, campers train with tomahawks and bows and arrows. Ben asks, "So we can defend ourselves if we ever time travel back to the 1700s?"

Smart and fast-paced, Spy Camp does not disappoint. Readers do not have to read Spy School first, but do yourself a favor, pick up both books; you'll be glad you did! Author Stuart Gibbs has another winner on his hands. Ben makes spying look like great fun, and even in dire situations, Ben has the presence of mind to solve problems without overthinking them. When trying to stop the assasination of the world's leaders and the launching of a deadly missle, Ben simply pulls the power  plug!

Highly, highly recommended grade 4-up. Recommeded for anyone who likes spies and humor.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

This review has been posted in compliance with the FTC requirements set forth in the Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising (available at

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