‘City Spies: Golden Gate’ by James Ponti is a perfect middle grade spy story

City Spies: Golden Gate by James Ponti

“City Spies: Golden Gate” is the sequel to “City Spies,” and both middle grade action books will be loved by those who enjoy reading novels that are quick-paced, filled with interesting characters, and boast satisfying endings. This series doesn’t fail to entertain, and even readers who haven’t read the first book in the series will be able to start right in on the second book, although it’s more fun getting in on the ground floor, so to speak.

The five teenaged spies are Kat, Paris, Sydney, Rio, and Brooklyn. They live with Mother, the man in charge of them who has rescued each of them in the city for which they are named. Each has a special talent, and they also live with Monty, who is a code-breaker extraordinaire, a fabulous baker, and the agent in charge of the FARM. Both Mother and Monty are spies with MI6, the British Secret Service — James Bond, anyone? They all live together in a manor home in Scotland which is referred to as the FARM, the Foundation for Atmospheric Research and Monitoring, a phony organization MI6 created when they turned the centuries old manor home into a super spy center with a fabulous super computer. The group trains there, and they attend school at the local boarding school for posh children.

Ponti starts the book with a bang as the research vessel that Sydney and Brooklyn are on is hijacked by a criminal enterprise trying to kidnap two students who are the children of important British citizens. One parent is a member of Parliament and the other is a not-too distant relative of royalty. The two teenage spies spectacularly save the day but must stay under the radar. We also find out about something that Brooklyn and Mother have been working on together — finding Mother’s children. His ex-wife was also MI6 before she defected to work with the enemy, and she took their two children with her. She actually left Mother for dead (we learn that in the first book), but they’ve come across some information that might help Mother locate his children.

While the kids are helping investigate that mystery, they come across another one. Who is Magpie, the double agent who has been selling MI6 secrets to the enemies of Great Britain? Can a group of kids solve this mystery when for decades, adult spies have not been able to do so? Travel with the group to San Francisco, take in the sights as they try to solve the clues, and find out if they have what it takes (hint: they do). This would be a superb read aloud; it’s eminently engaging and entertaining. The characters model how to work together as a team and come to realize that their work isn’t a competition, rather that each one is a part of making the whole team better. Advanced third grade readers through middle school students will all enjoy this book, as will any adult who wants a quick adventure. Warning: This series might be addictive.

Please note: This review is based on the advance reader’s copy provided by the publisher, Aladdin (Simon & Schuster), for review purposes.