Sunday 16 February 2020

Agent Starling: Operation Baked Beans by Jenny Moore

Amazon: Agent Starling

Published by: Maverick Arts Publishing, 2019


Nip to the portaloo, wolf down some baked beans and stock up on the toffee popcorn before settling down with this humorous, all-action, nail-biting history lesson cross secret agent book.
Fancy a stomp around Roman Britain with Oliver mean Agent Starling and Agent Owl? They are on a mission to capture Dr. Midnight - an evil genius who has travelled back in his portaloo time machine to conquer the past with baked beans, butterscotch popcorn and nappy pins.
In order to stop Dr. Midnight from changing the entire course of history, Agent Starling must follow Agent Owl's orders. But when Agent Owl is taken prisoner, Oliver is left to wander the Roman Empire alone in a very messy toga and his mum's frilly knickers. Only a strong stomach and the power of friendship will get him out of this timewarp. But will it get him out of an amphitheatre full of hungry lions?
This book was a delight to read - living, breathing history at it's best, wound up in a genius and  original loo-papered plot and all the joys of a secret agent expedition. Jenny Moore writes with bags of detail and chortling humour, the characters were unique and memorable and the plot was busy but hugely entertaining. The only big disappointment for me was the lack of pictures. Some black and white sketches would have been very welcome at certain points in the plot (pants, portaloos, piranha toothed dogs - that kind of thing!)
This story is an shining example of how history should be brought to life. Okay, so not every has access to their own photo booth or portaloo time machine, but Jenny draws the reader in by presenting facts in an engaging and vivid way. I feel like I learnt as much about Roman Britain as I did about agenting and time travel.
 At 219 pages, this felt like a hefty read for junior fiction but a lighter read for those entering middle grade territory. Maverick have always been a favourite publisher of mine for picture books but this is the first older fiction novel I have read from them and I was definitely left wanting more. With plenty of other centuries to explore, I very much hope to see Jenny Moore's brilliant Agent Starling again soon.

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