Agent Darcy and Ninja Steve in . . . Tiger Trouble!
by Grant Goodman
SECRET MISSIONS. SPIN KICKS. SINISTER GHOSTS.
Thirteen year-old Agent Darcy is one of the top students at the Bureau of Sneakery, where there are three rules every agent must follow: never make friends with an outsider, never speak of the Bureau, and never reveal your real name. Lately, Darcy has hit a rough patch: her rival, Agent Serena, keeps outdoing her. If things keep going this way, Darcy is convinced that no one will ever assign her a real mission.
Ninja Steve’s city, Ninjastoria, is the home of sword fights, throwing stars, and Tae Kwon Donuts. Unlike his genius older sister, twelve year-old Steve isn’t the best ninja student. He’d rather be swinging a sword instead of taking notes in class. Steve, however, is about to learn that being a true ninja means far more than being able to use a sword.
When Darcy is sent to Ninjastoria as an exchange student, it will turn both of their lives upside-down and raise all kinds of questions:
What do the mecha-moles want? Who is the man in the gray mask? What do ninjas eat for lunch? And why is there a menacing tiger on the cover of this book?
Time to read and find out!
Review (Possible Spoilers)
This is a terrific adventure story with a sense of whimsy and fantasy. Nominally written for kids, the humor and action are genuinely good for all ages.
The kids in the story are believable. They may go to special schools where they train to be Ninjas or Secret Agents, but they have regular life concerns.
Ninja Steve is following in his older sister’s footsteps. The instructors at his school seem to compare them constantly, and Steve feels this is unfair, especially when his sister practices advanced techniques on him:
There was a burst of smoke and when it cleared, Nora was standing right in front of him with her hands on her hips. “Ha! That was a new spell I invented! How was it?” “
She clapped. “Yes! That is the spell of eight sneezes.”
“Is it a level two spell? Or is that a level three?” Steve asked.
“Level one is illusion, level two is physical effect, and level three is harm,” Nora said. “I guess it’s a level two point five, maybe a three…depending on how hard the victim sneezes.”
Steve nodded. That was a powerful spell to command. It was even more distracting than the other spell she had invented: the spell of three burps. At least if he was burping, Steve could fight back.
Being four years younger than Nora, he is at a real disadvantage in training and skill development: he only sees the results and feels like he will never measure up to the standard she set. And fighting back just manages to get them both grounded.
With Steve and Nora, Goodman has created a realistic pair of siblings. They know each other’s weaknesses, they know how to push each other’s buttons, but at the same time, they obviously care about each other. After going on a mission together, Nora and Steve share a moment most siblings would understand:
“You were tough out there,” Nora said, when he got back to where she was. “You’ve got nothing to feel bad about.”
Underneath all of the teasing, practice attacks, and spell casting, they care about each other. They are family.
Agent Darcy is an only child being educated in an all-girls school. Her parents, who worked for the Bureau of Sneakery, have disappeared. (This is actually a common occurrence for parents who work for the Bureau.) She is not competing with the record of an older sibling at the school; she is competing with herself. She feels that she has to be absolutely perfect, at all times, to honor the memory of her parents. The first time she fails at a practice mission, she feels that they will expel her immediately:
“Jeez, you look like you’re burning up,” Serena said. And then her eyes went wide. “Ohmigod, this is the first test you’ve ever failed, isn’t it?”
Serena was right. “I…I…” Darcy stammered.
She felt the tears stinging the corners of her eyes. Thirteen years old and now, only now, had she failed a test. The first academic failure of her entire life. The pile of successes, of A’s and perfect papers and smiles from her teachers at the Bureau of Sneakery, those had all been wiped away. A single word obliterated every good feeling she’d ever had, replaced all of those triumphs with defeat.
The “f” word.
Of course, one failure does not mean expulsion. It is a learning experience, just like every other test at the school. But the fact that she cries in front of Serena, who Darcy considers her number one completion at the school, makes it all the more difficult to bear.
The mission is what draws these four characters together—doing battle with mole-men, hunting the ghost tiger from the title of the novel, and learning more about the mysterious man in the grey mask. Overall, the action is fast-paced, the kids believable, and the mystery both interesting and fun to solve.
Want to learn more about Agent Darcy and Ninja Steve? Curious about Grant Goodman? Check out his 5 Minute Author Interview on this site coming this Friday!