Boy in Tights

192p. (Spies in Disguise: Bk. 1.) Sky Pony. Apr. 2016. pap. $7.99. ISBN 9781634506892.
Gr 3–5—In this fluffy opener of what promises to be an engaging series for transitional readers, tween Joe discovers that his "cup-of-tea-and-a-cookie-in-front-of-the-TV" boring parents are actually international spies. After their covers are blown, Joe's parents must assume new identities and start over in a new place. Because their enemies are aware that Joe's parents are traveling with a boy, Joe must pose as a girl in order to throw off their pursuers. Joe balks at the gender switch, a feeling that deepens when his parents insist that he wear all things pink and sparkly so as to appear convincingly feminine. Initially preoccupied with sexist stereotypes, Joe (now Josie) sees his female peers as makeup-obsessed and frivolous. Gradually, his perceptions shift as he gets to know tomboy Sam, who isn't like any of the other girls. Though this title may grate on adults, young readers will definitely comprehend that Joe's understanding of gender performance is narrow. Joe tolerates the role-playing by immersing himself in his favorite spy books, which focus on a character named Dan McGuire. Life imitates art when Joe finds out his teacher is embezzling school monies; the tween decides to catch the culprit with high-tech gadgets pilfered from his parents. While the caper element occasionally stretches credulity, it hardly detracts from the solid pacing and silly humor.
VERDICT A suitable addition to collections needing more light mysteries that will resonate with a wide range of readers.

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