Tuesday, 22 October 2019

Review: 'Agent Starling: Operation Baked Beans' by Jenny Moore

DISCLAIMER: I was provided with a copy of this book for the purposes of review but all words and opinions are my own.

How far would your kids go to get out of a test at school? Go off on a secret service mission involving time travel?! For the hero of this new middle-grade novel, it's worth the risk!

'Agent Starling: Operation Baked Beans' is the story of 10 year old Oliver Starling, who finds him thrust into the world of a very inept secret service. His mission is to travel back in time to the Roman era to save history as we know it from the evil Dr Midnight and his efforts to introduce modern products, including baked beans and nappy pins, to the ancient civilisation. Along the way he meets Jules, an escaped slave desperate for a new life, one where she can be equal to males.

There is a lot of humour in the book, with the rather bizarre secret agents, a running gag about pink frilly knickers and of course the odd joke about the effects of baked beans, but I found that as the story went on the humour became more sparse and the tone shifted to more of a straight adventure story. There were some really quite scary bits - I won't spoil the story but it does include lions in a gladiator arena - which further changed the tone. I did feel that this shift made it harder to read, as the two styles jarred a little the more serious the story became.

That said there are a lot of positives to the book. It would be great for lovers of 'Horrible Histories' and books about ancient civilisations as there is a lot of authentic detail about Roman history in the story. I especially liked the character of Jules, a plucky heroine with a love of learning. Her story would be a good springboard for talking about equality, both in terms of how slaves were treated and in terms of how girls were (and sometimes still are) seen as inferior and undeserving of education. She's a great foil to Oliver, encouraging him not to give up on his quest to stop Dr Midnight.

Girl Child read the book too and said it was, "good but a bit weird." I did ask her to elaborate but no luck! She read the whole book over two evenings so I think she was interested in it, but it's not really her usual genre so I can understand her reaction.

Overall, despite my reservations about the tone I think this is an enjoyable read which would appeal to older primary-age readers who love history, adventure and the occasional joke about underwear!

Linking up with #ReadWithMe hosted by Mama Mummy Mum and Kids Love To Read #KLTR hosted by Laura's Lovely Blog, BookBairn and Acorn Books.

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  1. My kids really enjoy the Horrible Histories books so this sounds like something they'd really enjoy #readwithme

  2. I think books like this are great for getting kids enthusiastic about reading. It is a shame that it got less funny and more serious as the book went on - you would think the author could have kept the humour even when it got more serious.

  3. Oh Logan would love this! What a fun book. I think there is something very appealing about secret missions! #KLTR

  4. Sounds like one for kids to enjoy, but perhaps with less parent appeal, but I guess that's good because they can read on their own too. My two definitely aren't big enough for it yet though! Thanks for linking up with #KLTR