This book from Kate Scott is great fun, if only because it plays on the central idea of a boy having to dress up as a girl. In our culture, boys are highly tuned to threats to their sense of boyhood. The author uses this affront to masculinity by placing young Joe in a position where pretending to be a girl is vital to his and his family’s safety. He discovers that his parents are spies (presumably on the side of good but actually it is never specified who they work for!) and when their cover is blown by some bad guys, they collect him from school and zoom off to a new part of the country, new names and, in Joe’s case, a new identity.
Joe is amazed to learn that his ordinary parents are, in fact, spies and not as boring as he thought they were. The good news comes with bad, though, when he discovers his new identity is Josie and not Joe.
The fun comes from the way he reacts to the clothes he has to wear. His dad’s idea of a girl is to cover him in pink and frilly things. When Josie befriends Sam at his new school, his view of what girls are like changes. Sam is a better footballer than he is and she does not take kindly to stereo types. Yet, it is the differences between boys and girls that provide the fun here. There are some serious points behind all this jollity, though. The way girls are perceived, especially by boys is brought up. Why do we think all girls like pink?
Josie has a wig and tights to contend with and a school day where the boys dominate the playground with football. When his/her parents get involved with a spy mission that involves Josie’s school, there is the perfect opportunity for the young boy to develop his own spy skills.
This is a children’s book that successfully plays on the way boys and girls see each other and treat each other. It is a lot of fun and the fact that there are now two sequels suggests that the central idea can run and run… as long as Joe/Josie is not uncovered!