Mac Undercover

illus. by Mike Lowery. 160p. (Mac B., Kid Spy: Bk. 1). Scholastic/Orchard. Sept. 2018. Tr $12.99. ISBN 9781338143591.
OrangeReviewStarGr 3–6—Barnett and Lowery bring the funny to the serious art of espionage in a perfect interplay of text and illustration. Barnett, known for his award-winning picture book collaborations with Jon Klassen (The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse; Sam and Dave Dig a Hole), slyly premises this "childhood memoir" by explaining how he works as an author, i.e. someone who gets to make stuff up. Young readers will not get too hung up on the ins and outs of truth vs. fiction as young Mac B., kid spy, ventures from his home in California to England to fulfill a secret mission for the Queen. Along the way, he loses his Game Boy on the plane, suspects the KGB, talks crumpets vs. cookies with her Majesty, teams up with Freddie the corgi, steals art from the Louvre, and learns he reached a higher score on SpyCraft than the King of France. Throughout, Barnett interweaves tidbits of global history fit for trivia lovers, while Lowery's comic-style images play a key role in the humor, from imagining why the Mona Lisa smiles, to depicting the Queen with goofy unicorn pajamas, and topping it off with an ending page bound to provoke giggles.
VERDICT Told with a sense of nostalgia for 1980s history and pop culture, the silliness and originality of this book will hook young readers.

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