Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Review: Spy School by Stuart Gibbs! Graphic Novel Form

As you can tell after yesterday's review, I'm totally in spy mood. Today's review takes the exciting Spy School series...and yep, I've read several books in that one, although not all...and transforms it into graphic novel form. I was super-excited to see this because not only are graphic novels a nice change-up, but I really believe this book is optimal for this format.

Oh, and I just noticed that this one doesn't come out until February 15th...so only a couple more weeks!

Ready to see if it met my expectations? 

The Graphic Novel
by Stuart Gibbs
Illustrated by Anjan Sarkar
Simon and Schuster
296 pages
ages 8 to 12

Can an undercover nerd become a superstar secret agent? The first book in Stuart Gibbs’s New York Times bestselling Spy School series is now a graphic novel!

Ben Ripley may only be in middle school, but he’s already pegged his dream job: CIA or bust. Unfortunately for him, his personality doesn’t exactly scream “secret agent.” In fact, Ben is so awkward, he can barely get to school and back without a mishap. Because of his innate nerdiness, Ben is not surprised when he is recruited for a magnet school with a focus on science—but he’s entirely shocked to discover that the school is actually a front for a junior CIA academy. Could the CIA really want him?

Actually, no. There’s been a case of mistaken identity—but that doesn’t stop Ben from trying to morph into a supercool undercover agent, the kind that always gets the girl. And through a series of hilarious misadventures, Ben realizes he might actually be a halfway decent spy…if he can survive all the attempts being made on his life! With action-packed, eye-catching art, join Ben Ripley as he survives his first year at the Academy of Espionage.



While the novel form of this book was already exciting, this graphic form shoots the adventure up to an entirely new level.

With a great balance of text and illustrations, the story flows with all the excitement it deserves. I was afraid the author might be tempted to add too much (after reading the larger novels), but that is definitely not the case. Not a single letter was wasted on unnecessary descriptions, background information, or add-ons. Rather, the text remains short, concise and exactly what is required, and never cheapens the illustrations. It was easy to read, hard to put down, and exciting front beginning to end. So I found this adaption well done.

While a spy story is, of course, about stopping the bad guys and getting out of tough situations...or just thinking things through...that's not all this one holds. The characters come to life as much as the tale. Ben does start with his normal life before diving into the spy world, and that does let the reader connect with him first and know where he's coming from. He's a nice guy, who has his own dreams, and those aren't necessarily understood by his friends or classmates. His awkwardness continues into the spy school, but this is where his character growth starts. The characters around him don't have the same starting depth, but they gain their own personalities, quirks and even history as the story goes along...and all of that without breaking beat on the action and intrigue.

Fans of the original series will want to pick this up, but I see those who haven't read it, yet, as the more enthusiastic readers—reluctant readers, graphic novel fans, action fans, and such. It's a fun read with tons to enjoy, and I do hope that there will be more graphic novels coming up.

And here they are...

Stuart Gibbs is the New York Times bestselling author of the Charlie Thorne series, FunJungle series, Moon Base Alpha series, and Spy School series. He has written screenplays, worked on a whole bunch of animated films, developed TV shows, been a newspaper columnist, and researched capybaras (the world’s largest rodents). Stuart lives with his family in Los Angeles. You can learn more about what he’s up to at StuartGibbs.com.

Anjan Sarkar’s preferred illustration style is “wonky and slightly misshapen,” which he realized around the time that he started drawing with my children (who are masters of the wonky line). His work is influenced by illustrators like David McKee, Jill McDonald, and Maurice Sendak, whose books he read as a little person. Anjan is also unhealthily obsessed with a few contemporary illustrators such as Benjamin Chaud, Sara Ogilvie, and Neal Layton. Since becoming a full-time illustrator, he’s created illustration for children’s books, animation, and advertising. Anjan works from a little studio in his house in Sheffield, England, where he lives with his wife and two kids.

1 comment:

Heather N. Quinn said...

You've got me really excited about this one. Will definitely be picking it up. Thanks!