Review of Clayton Stone, At Your Service by Ena Jones

Ena Johes, Clayton Stone

There’s a new Secret Agent on the block and his name is Clayton Stone. He is the brain child of Ena Jones, an old friend and former critique-group partner of mine. Clayton turns 13 in the first book of this new Middle Grade series, published by Holiday House.

So, let’s do some sleuthing of our own and find out How this star lacrosse player at a posh private school gets to be an agent for the Special Service.

What criminal intrigue does this hero help the Special Service solve?

Where does all this take place?

Why is Clayton, a twelve-year old boy needed?

Who recruits Clayton to help?

Who is in trouble?

And How does Clayton’s grandmother fit into the whole plot?

It appears that someone is robbing wealthy ladies and their daughters who shop at shopping centers and force them to take money from ATMs. But when the latest family to be involved in this nefarious activity is that of a prominent politician (this is Washington, D.C., after all)things escalate. A Senator’s wife and step-daughter are kidnapped.

Clayton is recruited (after a nudge from the President) to help because what is needed is a kid and he fits the bill. It is assumed Clayton will not arouse suspicion as he gathers information. No one meant for him to get so involved. “They want to use me as ‘bait’? To get the mall napper dude?”

Here’s a sampling:

“Chapter Four: Less than twenty-four hours later, I’m in the underwear section at Macy’s. Shopping. Normally, I wouldn’t be caught dead here. Now I might be. Caught dead, that is. I lean over and mutter into my shoe, trying to act like bra-shopping with my fake mom is a regular day in the life of me. ‘Can you hear me? Over.’”

As Clayton spends more and more time in his secret mission, he misses some lacrosse practice and his friends become, not just suspicious, but downright hostile.  He can’t explain. “Real secrets suck.” To complicate matters, the busy-body girl in his class tries to convince Clayton to get involved in campus politics. Then there is the other girl, the one who was kidnapped. There’s a lot going on here.

For instance, there’s the diner his Grandmother owns with the mechanical booth that dumps those in the know into the underground Headquarters.  .  . . A Secret Agent who will risk his life for you would make a great father figure. . . .  I’ll bet you thought Men In Black drove around in inconspicuous cars, not Lamborghinis and BMWs. . . .  Sometimes a Secret Agent must wear a disguise, and Clayton’s involves wearing a wig. “. . . the next team rushes at me with hair clippers and pushes me into my own barber chair. They’re barely finished when another member of the pit crew pounces with shaving cream and a razor while a guy with a Shop-Vac sucks up all my hair from the floor.” . . . .  Why did busy-body girl have to go for pretzels at just the wrong time? . . . You’ll never guess who is the Head of the Special Service.

I recommend this book for both boy and girl middle schoolers who like a bit of danger and adventure in their pleasure reading material.  They will be right at home in the up-to-the-minute lingo and self-confident attitudes. Sample: “Carlos’s (the head cook at the diner) face is set to the serious channel.”

Decoy or not, Clayton is committed to finding and saving the wife and step-daughter of the Senator.

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