Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
- Age: 9 to 12
- Grade: 4 to 7
- Reading age: 9 to 12
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?
About the author
est l'auteure de nombreux livres jeunesse primés. Elle a écrit plus de 80
livres, dont Raconte-moi les graphiques : L'histoire de William Playfair et
l'album illustré à succès Un porc-épic dans un sapin. Helaine
habite à Toronto, en Ontario.
HELAINE BECKER is the author of numerous of books of fiction and non-fiction for children, among them the best-selling A Porcupine in a Pine Tree and its sequel, Dashing Through the Snow: A Canadian Jingle Bells, The Haunted House That Jack Built and Little Jack Horner, Live from the Corner. Her books have won the Silver Birch Award and the CBA Libris Award and have been shortlisted for the Red Cedar, the Hackmatack and the Rocky Mountain awards. Helaine lives in Toronto with her family. Visit her at www.helainebecker.com.
- Commended, CCBC Best Books for Kids & Teens
"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.”
"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."
School Library Journal
"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."
National Reading Campaign blog
"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."
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"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."
"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."
Library Media Connection
"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."
"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."
"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."
Southwest Ohio and Neighboring Libraries
Other titles by Helaine Becker
So Long, Stress!
Her Path to Kindness
Fossil Whisperer, The
How Wendy Sloboda Discovered a Dinosaur
On vous souhaite un joyeux Noël
We Wish You a Merry Christmas: A Canadian Carol
A Canadian Carol
That's No Dino!
Or Is It? What Makes a Dinosaur a Dinosaur
An Equal Shot
How the Law Title IX Changed America
A Porcupine in a Pine Tree Collection
The Most Important Mathematician You've Never Heard Of
Alice and Gert
An Ant and Grasshopper Story