Children’s Book Reviews

Children's Book Reviews: Secret Agent Man Goes Shopping for Shoes

Publish February 23, 2016

In Secret Agent Man Goes Shopping for Shoes, award-winning author Tim Wynne-Jones and illustrator Brian Won slip in and out of a young boy’s real and imagined lives. For S.A.M. – Secret Agent Man – the ordinary world has extraordinary potential: raisins become jewels, French fries become snakes, and the bathroom becomes the Holding Cell of Despair. When K. – short for “Kay,” and S.A.M.’s caregiver – suggests it’s time to go shopping for shoes, S.A.M. knows that the perfect pair would either be rocket or vanishing shoes. Learning to tie the laces, well, that’ll surely be part of the adventure, too. Brian Won’s retro digital illustrations help kids transition between the real and imagined. He uses a dark blue and black palette when S.A.M. goes “undercover,” and full-colour when S.A.M. attends to the real world. Underlying these shifting states of mind is the secure connection between the boy and his caregiver, who not only decides to buy shoes like his, but also joins with him in his ferocious affirmations (“ROAR!”). Kids will enjoy the restaurant scene, which simultaneously depicts the worlds they inhabit together. In the upper portion of the double-page spread, they share a side of snakes in secret agent costumes, while in the lower portion, their new matching shoes nearly touch under the table. Secret Agent Man Goes Shopping for Shoes is a playful depiction of childhood inner-worlds, and a reminder that adults can connect, understand, and play along, too.

Secret Agent Man Goes Shopping for Shoes

Tim Wynne-Jones
Illustration EN: Brian Won
Candlewick Press: Penguin Random House of Canada
ISBN 13: 978-0-7636-7119-8

Jen Bailey
Jen Bailey Jen Bailey is an Ontario-certified teacher who holds an MFA in Writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She works for the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council. Jen’s other book reviews have appeared in Quill & Quire and Canadian Children’s Book News.

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