Note: Readers may have noticed that the author of this title has commented at ISLF in the past. Allow me to remind everyone that, in order to maintain objectivity, I do not accept free review copies of books.
One of the things I love about children's literature is how a single book can resonate throughout a kid's life. Think of it as a rock pitched into a placid lake or a flintstone struck with steel: It ripples outward, and who knows that interests may smolder long after the original title has been set aside. For instance, how many young readers developed an interest in investigative logic after picking up The Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew series? How many yearned to plunge into the forest after closing Hatchet's cover? While even quotidian books can generate such interest, something special happens when a talented author aims to engage children's curiosity -- which seems precisely what F.T. Bradley want to do with her debut novel Double Vision.
Linc Baker doesn't try to get into trouble. Mischief just comes naturally to him, especially at school. Exhibits A and B? His infamous Tomato Mess and the notorious Code Adam Alert. But loosing a whole brood of chickens during a field trip to a farm proves a step too far. Suddenly, his family finds itself facing a nasty lawsuit from an irate farmer, and Linc learns that exasperated school administrators want him gone -- period. The situation looks dire until two mysterious figures show up saying that they're from the government and here to help. They call themselves Agent Stark and Agent Fullerton, and they have a proposition for Linc. Seems their star junior agent, one Benjamin Green, has vanished without a trace on the eve of an important mission. If Linc will agree to fly to Paris and deliver an important package, his grateful country will make the lawsuit and his expulsion disappear. Linc doesn't like how they avoid revealing details about the assignment. (What's in this package? And what exactly happened to Benjamin Green?) In the end, though, what choice does he have?
First things first: Double Vision isn't intended for adults. Marketed as a middle-grade novel, its plot and characters are well executed, but might feel a tad familiar to anyone over the age of sixteen. Still, Bradley has a few surprises up her sleeve. While the proceedings remain age-appropriate throughout, things get grim near the climax as a bound and gagged Linc listens to bad guys discuss the best way to dispose of a body. Later, he gets beaten about the head multiple times. Bracingly gritty. But the main draw comes from all of the incidental detail Bradley includes. The sights of Paris, the history of Leonardo da Vinci, hobo signs, Morse code, several sorts of ciphers -- Double Vision contains all sorts of stuff could keep a youngster digging through library reference books for weeks. It's the kind of book that works on two levels, entertaining and informing simultaneously.
(Picture: CC 2012 by Samyra Serin)