Middle Grade Mondays on Juniper’s Jungle feature books aimed at 8 – 12 year olds, or younger. This week, Spy Dog by Andrew Cope earns her turn in the spotlight.
Lara, or GM451 as she is known by the government, is a highly trained special agent, bred by the British Secret Service for use on dangerous missions around the world. But her last mission went wrong and now she is being hunted down by an evil drugs baron, Mr Big. Lara must go undercover as a normal dog, ‘choose’ a family to look after her and await her retrieval by the Secret Service. But can she keep her true identity a secret? Can she thwart the plans of Mr Big? And can she bear to return to government service, after weeks of cosy domestic bliss?
So often the word that comes to mind when I’m thinking about Middle Grade fiction is fun. I feel like it’s something I end up saying a lot, but that doesn’t make it any less true. So many great Middle Grade books are fun and highly engaging, it’s one of the reasons I enjoy the age grouping so much. Spy Dog, actually aimed a little below the lower end of the 8 – 12 age band lives up to this idea of fun really, really well.
We’re first introduced to Lara, the Spy Dog from the title, when she’s hiding out at the RSPCA’s rehoming shelter. This is part of her training – if she gets split from her handlers she should go undercover as a regular pet until they can come and get her. The process of Lara getting rehomed is very entertaining, she’s a highly skilled dog so there are all sorts of extra things she can think of to do in order to get herself, or one of the other dogs selected.
I really enjoyed learning about how Lara had become this canine special agent, and laughed lots as she tried to integrate herself into the normal family life. The illustrations by Chris Mould that go with this work really well and add to the humour, there are some things that are a little difficult to imagine – he captures these really well.
There’s plenty of action within this story, keeping the read pacey and engaging. The chapters are short which I would imagine will work in the favour of young children who ask for “just one more…” to be read at bedtime! The tone is appropriate for the intended young audience, the big villain being a drugs baron could perhaps have been a little much but it’s well done with the focus being on the fact he’s the baddie rather than why he’s the baddie.
A fast, fun read that I’m sure young readers will lap up. If they do there’s plenty more waiting for them, there are currently 20 books involving Lara, her pups and most recently Shakespeare the spy cat.
Spy Dog is published by Puffin in the UK. My copy of the book is one I purchased myself.