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Fiction Ages 9-12
Pages: 208
Themes: secret agent, spy, mystery, espionage, blackmail, teamwork, best friends
Publisher: Orca Book Publishers
Pub Date: 01/Oct/2014
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When Darren Dirkowitz's evil stepbrother (code name Waldo) gets hold of Darren's tippity-top-secret spy journal, he threatens to expose it to the entire Preston Middle School student body. Unless, that is, Darren starts doing his dirty work for him. Now Darren's got to use the oh-so-cloak-and-daggery skills he's honed in his secret alternate life as Dirk Daring, Secret Agent to spy on kids at school. Naturally, he also sets up a separate, sneaky surveillance program to unearth Waldo's own secrets. As more and more ugly truths are exposed, new alliances are forged and old friendships broken. Can Darren learn to be true to himself and build real friendships for the first time in his life? Or will he retreat back into his exciting but imaginary shadow world?

Kirkus Reviews
"Friendships are strongly tested throughout the novel, which is peppered with imaginative turns of phrase and bursts of energy. The book is an enjoyable and quirky read...These are real kids behaving with all the creativity and energy one would expect of them. But beneath all the play and humor is a genuine emotional core, exploring the trials and tribulations all friendships endure when moving from elementary school on to junior high. A stunning last-minute twist pushes the book above and beyond. A clever romp that's enhanced, not lessened, by its message."
School Library Journal
"Even a trip to the grocery store to buy hamburger buns can become a super, secret spy mission when you’re Dirk Daring, secret agent (a.k.a. Darren Dirkowitz)...Excerpts from Darren’s spy notebook are amusing and give insight into characters. Dirk Daring, Secret Agent is a quick, enjoyable read with plenty of potty humor to reel in reluctant readers."
Publishers Weekly
"Full of wisecracking jokes, shifting alliances, and betrayals, Becker's school-day caper offers a steady stream of surprises and laughs. Darren maintains a deadpan, noir-ish tone ('No one must know of my covert actions. Therefore, I use ultimate discretion and a steady hand to obtain my ink') even when, for instance, he's using his own urine as invisible ink."
"The nonstop action, evolving plot, fleshed-out characters, gross-out jokes, intermittent cartoonish illustrations, and overarching themes of friendship and self-discovery should resonate with middle school readers. Recommend this to fans of Sammy Keyes and Hunter Moran."
National Reading Campaign blog
"Becker has created a delightful hero in underdog, Darren Dirkowitz...Chock full of code names and encrypted missions, comic doodles and handwritten editorial comments, Dirk Daring, Secret Agent is a high-energy race car speeding to what looks like certain disaster. But underneath is a gentle and thoughtful look at the scary parts of being ten years old...A highly imaginative and enjoyable read and the underlying message adds to, rather than detracts from the fun."
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"Both a sophisticated and acceptable middle-grade read, balancing potty humor with irony and witty sarcasm while offering a nicely complicated noir-like plot in a straightforward style. Darren/Dirk makes an appealing narrator, confident in his espionage abilities but less so in his social graces. The various twists in the story keep the pages turning...An attractive puzzle that will leave reluctant readers feeling triumphant both in their reading and sleuthing skills."
Resource Links
"The book has many funny illustrations tucked into random pages and has plenty of spy tricks that the reader can learn. This is a great chapter book with animations and both boys and girls will enjoy reading and sleuthing along.”
Library Media Connection
"Simple drawings along the edge, graphics of emails sent, and other text features add interest to the pages. You don’t have to be a future spy to enjoy this book, but tweens that enjoy school drama will like the spy twist."
Southwest Ohio and Neighboring Libraries
"Dirk’s voice is completely in spy-mode, making for an amusing narrative, and the myriad illustrations, including cartoons, diagrams, case files and text messages, will interest modern readers, especially Wimpy Kid fans...Kids in grades 4-6 will find Dirk’s adventures to be humorous and entertaining, good for a read-aloud or individual reading."


CCBC Best Books  | 2015 | Commended

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