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Agent A to Agent Z

By Andy Rash

There are so many reasons to love this book, which Andy and I first started talking about after he did a “Spy” illustration for the cover of the New York Times Book Review. It gave us the chance to talk to each other in fake Russian accents. It simultaneously embraced and spoofed so many conventions - such as the traditional alphabet and classic spy cartoon characters (like Boris and Natasha). Plus its fresh, wacky humor speaks to contemporary readers, and feels like a breath of fresh air. Publishing the book also gave us numerous opportunities to write “selling copy”(i.e. for the jacket flap, for the catalog, etc.) in rhyme. An example of this is the priceless doggerel below, written by our doggerel queen Cheryl Klein.

Agent A is on a mission,
eyeing spies with great suspicion.
Which of then is unofficial,
lacking words with their initial?
Agent A consults a list
to make sure that no spy is missed:
Agent B must be all right,
defusing Bombs which were alight,
and Agent C is okay too
(the suction Cups-an easy clue).
Through the alphabet A goes,
dodging dangers, facing foes.
Will he find the fake in time?
He’ll need your help to solve the crime!
A spy delight for every age,
with Bond-dry wit on each new page,
Agent A’s hip, fresh good looks
will guarantee fast-selling books.
Thanks for reading! Best of luck.
(Grab one before they self-destruct.)

Reviews and Awards

Amazon Editor’s Choice 2004
2006 Washington Children's Picture Books Award Nominee
Brown County Book Award (Indiana) 

⋆ “With Austin Powers, Maxwell Smart and MAD magazine's Spy vs. Spy as his muses, Rash (The Robots Are Coming) sends Agent A on a mission through the alphabet to find a mole. … It's a cool concept, especially for children who believe they've outgrown ABC books but find espionage enthralling. Rash's deadpan digital cartoons slyly spoof the undercover world as a place where the sun seldom shines and agents always dress in black and sport the same steely demeanor. At the same time, Rash celebrates the aura of menace, the top-secret intrigue, the neat-o equipment (a Jet pack, a tranquilizing dart). There's good fun here for any aspiring spy who's looking for a reason to come in from the cold.” - Publishers Weekly, starred review

“The message arrives via the videophone/fax combo on the dash of his cool convertible: "Calling Secret Agent A. / Here's your mission for today: / Every spy who is official / uses words with his initial. / But one spy is out of line. / I need to know his name by nine." Agent A then embarks on his investigation, starting with Agent B, who is debating which colored wire to clip from a timed explosive: "Agent B correctly chooses / Blue, and so the Bomb defuses." … The couplets are bouncy, and the illustrations, india ink and Adobe Photoshop, have a bold, appealing quality as a succession of squat little spies (most wearing trenchcoats and fedoras) practice kung fu, rappel down walls, and crawl through vents. Older readers will recall cartoon secret agents Boris and Natasha and MAD magazine's "Spy VS Spy"--and is that Edward G. Robinson as the spy chief? Kids may not catch all these references, but they'll definitely get the joke, and they'll enjoy investigating this clever alphabet caper.” - The Horn Book

“In a takeoff on Mission Impossible, cartoonist Rash sets up a clever plot for an alphabet book.… The humorous illustrations, drawn in ink and digitally colored, are filled with the stuff of spy thrillers: black backgrounds or frames, shadows, an overhead bulb casting a triangle of light in a dark office, and Agent A skulking around every corner. Small black smudges add texture. The spies themselves are especially ridiculous with their silly disguises, nutty kung-fu moves, and abundant mishaps. Youngsters may guess the surprise ending before this crazy caper concludes, but they'll definitely enjoy the mission.” - School Library Journal Parent's Choice Silver Honor

Purchase Options
Amazon • Barnes & Noble

Spring 2004
Picture Book
ISBN: 0-439-36882-0
Price: $16.95/$25.99
Trim Size: 8 1/2" x 11"
Page Count: 40 SE
Foreign Rights: Scholastic
Translation Rights: Scholastic
Rights Available? yes

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