Reviews provided by Syndetics
Publishers Weekly Review
After her whimsical debut fantasy novel, Dale (Whispering to Witches) turns out an uneven mystery starring a lonely yet optimistic 11-year-old. Dawn "drifted through life with no one giving her a second glance," yet "clung to the hope that something exciting was going to happen to her." When Dawn spots the driver of a car "goggling at her" as she crosses a street on the way to school, she is "astounded" that someone has actually noticed her and is convinced that "something... with a capital `S' " is about to happen. Something does (the driver, a recruiter for a secret intelligence organization, taps Dawn to join the force as a spy), but the tale's intrigue takes too long to kick in. After Dawn and readers endure her laborious spy training, the young sleuth is finally launched on her mission: to discover the whereabouts of Angela, a spy who had suddenly vanished just after phoning headquarters to report that she had spotted a villainous fellow thought to have died a decade earlier. Dawn takes up residence in the town from which Angela disappeared and begins collecting clues that eventually let her uncover the identify of the rogue. Sprinkled with charming Briticisms and ample humor, Dale's complex whodunit entails false leads and tangles that will keep kids guessing, even if the novel's initial lumbering pace may stall them. Ages 8-12. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
School Library Journal Review
Gr 4-6-Dawn Buckle, 11, is so ordinary that even her parents frequently fail to notice her. This invisibility pays off when a top-secret spy organization called P.S.S.T. recruits her for an important rescue mission. She must learn the tools of the spy trade and then go undercover in a small English village to track down criminal mastermind Murdo Meek. Bumbling spies, numerous mishaps, and a jumble of acronyms-spy agencies called S.H.H., A.H.E.M., and C.O.O.E.E.-contribute to the story's light, humorous tone. The bad guys don't kill people; they just kidnap them, lock them up, exploit their phobias, or knock them off ladders. There is a large cast of colorful characters but, except for the protagonist, few are particularly well developed. The story also gets off to a slow start; the mission doesn't actually begin until almost halfway into the novel. Still, mystery lovers should enjoy following the clues and observing Dawn's development as she becomes more confident and self-assured. Plenty of challenging vocabulary will also make this a good choice for precocious readers who want a book without mature themes.-Miranda Doyle, San Francisco Public Library (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Gr. 4-7. Who better to serve as a spy than a girl that no one ever notices? Eleven-year-old Dawn Buckle is virtually invisible to those around her, but she does catch the attention of a member of British agency S. H. H. (Strictly Hush-Hush) and is selected to serve as a child spy for the P. S. S. T. division (Pursuit of Scheming Spies and Traitors). Dawn and the agency's secretary are deployed to the village of Cherry Bently to locate a missing spy and an evil criminal, Murdo Meek. Dawn trades in her drab dress, including her trademark mushroom-colored socks, for a new wardrobe and a new name, but sneaks along one personal belonging, her beloved stuffed donkey, Clop, whose bravery and sacrifice aids the detective process, making him an endearing inanimate hero. The pacing drags in places, and readers will have to reconcile the young stuffed-animal-carrying protagonist with the sophisticated vocabulary and complicated plot jumps. Dawn's growth in self-esteem and confidence is believable, and the secondary characters are unique. Young mystery fans will also enjoy playing with the codes she employs. --Cindy Dobrez Copyright 2005 Booklist
Horn Book Review
A spy agency chooses quiet Dawn to be an undercover agent, after all, who would suspect an eleven-year-old? The agency, its members, the case, Dawn, and other characters are poor caricatures of cheesy spy stories (think ""Inspector Gadget""). Though the premise might initially grab readers' attention, the dry writing does nothing to hold it. Reading list. Glos. (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. All rights reserved.