Milo Speck, Accidental Agent
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015 259 pgs
Milo lives a very hum-drum life. His mother is gone, Dad is away a lot on business, and he is left in the care of cold and strict "Grandmother", a babysitter provided by Dad's company. One day he falls into his clothes dryer while attempting to retrieve a sock and is pulled out into a new land on the other side by an ogre. He has landed in Ogregon, a place where children are considered a rare and tasty delicacy. He is taken by the repair ogre to the Home Office, where he discovers his father's boss, Mr. Tuckerman, being held captive by the simple minded, yet huge and dangerous ogres. At a quiet moment Milo helps Mr. Tuckerman escape. Imagine his surprise when he discovers that Mr. Tuckerman is really his young daughter Tuck. Further surprises reveal that Milo's father is actually an agent for the same agency that Tuck works for and often is away on missions in Ogregon. Tuck and Milo manage to escape, only to land in one tricky predicament after another. As their adventure continues they encounter Milo's father, a hoard of gigantic turkeys, an agent who is really working for the other side, other captured children, and various ginormous, yet simple minded, ogres. Milo becomes "deputized" as an agent and must become an intricate part of the team if they are ever to escape this dangerous land and get home again to safety.
Milo Speck is a departure for Linda Urban who is known for writing thoughtful novels for middle grade girls (A Crooked Kind of Perfect, The Center of Everything).This madcap and fantastical adventure will appeal to reluctant readers, especially boys and for a slightly younger audience than for whom she usually writes. The action never stops, as Milo and Tuck find themselves in one ridiculous predicament after another. The ogres are large in size, yet small in smarts, allowing for a less than scary villainous portrayal and many humorous moments as our two heroes manage to outwit them again and again. Generous cartoon illustrations (by Mariano Epelbaum) pepper the text, also adding to the fun and lightening the mood. Throw in giant turkeys and mismatched socks and you have a winner. Reading this book is a bit like watching the Cartoon Network and it doesn't always make logical sense, but kids won't care. They will lap up Milo's adventures and look at their dryers in a new way. Give this to kids who have graduated from Dragonbreath, but are not quite ready for Harry Potter or Gregor the Overlander or those who prefer their fantasy light and a little silly.