Spy School


Spy School (paperback)

by Stuart Gibbs

AR Level 5.3, 9 points

I was so excited to read this book, because I’d stalked it in Barnes & Noble for months and months and months.  I had a bunch of pictures of the cover in my phone.  Did I ever mention that I take pictures of the books that I want to read, and then when I’m feeling unmotivated, I go and buy one of them?  Yes, I do that.  Part of my nerdiness.  So I had been taking pictures of it for months.  Then, at the USC Festival of Books, Stuart Gibbs was sitting there at a table, signing books!  I was so excited, I bought a bunch of his books.  All except for this one, the first in the series.  Face palm.  Anyway, I ordered it using my Scholastic points and finished it.  Short story long.

This is the story of a boy who was hand-selected to attend a special school for future spies, run by the CIA.  It turns out it is very poorly run, and Ben wasn’t exactly hand-selected, nor did he qualify.  He is an awkward middle school boy who has a crush on a cute girl.  He isn’t particularly skilled at anything (except math), but he learns quickly that he has to learn the ropes or fail at being a real spy, his dream job.

What I liked about this book was that it was written comically.  We see the CIA as a mysterious, powerful entity.  We common folk will probably never deal directly with the CIA or spies in general, but we don’t exactly see them as being goofy, incompetent, or pompous fools.  It actually reminded me a lot of a normal school, with powerful people not so powerful, and the students being given a lot less credit than they deserve.

What I didn’t like about this book was that it got a little complicated in parts.  I actually lost track of character names.  That could have been my fault, but it wasn’t a “can’t put it down” kind of book.  Good, but not as engaging as others I’ve read.

Now, I need my niece to finish reading Spy Camp so I can get started on the sequel!  There is a third book (Evil Spy School), but it is hardcover, so I’ll wait for it to come out in paperback.  There is also another series, and I bought two of those books.  I enjoyed meeting Stuart Gibbs, because I liked putting an actual person to the stories I read.

Book 6 of 40 (year 2)

USC Festival of Books

Today, I got to chaperone a group of fifth graders to the Festival of Books at USC.  It’s kind of like a massive book fair with all kinds of vendors, authors, illustrators, and every kind of literature imaginable, from comics to children’s through adult books and novels, to newspapers, religious brochures, drawing books, you name it.  A few students from my class went last year, but I didn’t attend, and I regretted it as soon as I discovered what it was.  This year, although I didn’t teach the class that went, I jumped at the chance to chaperone.

Here are some of MY highlights (there are, I’m sure, billions of highlights that I wasn’t able to experience in my short time there, especially since I didn’t buy tickets for panels and I had my principal and several students tagging along):

1) I got to meet Stuart Gibbs and he autographed 3 books for me.  I have to admit that I haven’t actually read any of his books (yet), but I’ve been stalking Spy School at Barnes & Noble for almost a year, and I fully intended to buy it as soon as I was ready and nothing else was pressing.  Today was as good a day as any.  Definitely expect to see a blog about these books in the future.  Unfortunately, I was so flustered about the chance to meet a real author, I got Spy Camp, the sequel to Spy School, instead.  So I still have to go buy Spy School, and it won’t be autographed like the other 3 books I bought today (Spy Camp, Poached, and Belly Up).  Ugh.  But at least I got to meet him, get his autograph, and joke about how I already have 2 children and don’t need to take his 2 home in my complimentary tote bag.

I think he’s the biggest author I’ve met so far, and as we know, authors are book nerds’ celebrities.  It doesn’t matter if I’ve seen the movie (read the book).  Seeing the actor (author) is still pretty cool.

Photo on 4-18-15 at 7.28 PM #2

2) I also got to meet Jenny Offill, an author I’ve never heard of, but I really loved the 2 books I bought: 11 Experiments That Failed and Sparky!  She was gracious enough to autograph my books and double checked that she had the spelling of my daughters’ names correct.  Sparky! is an adorable book about a girl narrator who really wanted a pet, and got her mom to agree to a sloth.  The judgey girl down the street made fun of her sloth, so the narrator decided to prove judgey girl wrong.  It is a sweet story.  Plus, how many picture books have you read about sloths?  They are awesome, and the best part of Sea World, if you ask me.


11 Experiments That Failed, also by Offill, is my classroom STEAM find.  Another girl narrator is interested in answering her questions through experimentation, and she analyzes her results.  It made me laugh out loud, and I definitely recommend getting this for your classroom if you teach science or STEAM.


3) Books galore.  I love books.  Did you know that?  I got a few other books that I will not post about, because I want to save them for future posts once I’ve read them.  I saw books I’d never heard of but now want, and books I’d heard of but never picked up.  It was neat to see so many vendors with a shared passion, and so many people coming together for the sake of literacy.  I was happy to bring my future students to this event to see them look at books and think about what went into the development of these stories.  Really, I just like kids who like books.

I can’t wait until next year!  Maybe I’ll sneak off and sit in the audience of a panel of my favorite authors!