Thursday 22 October 2020

Agent Asha: Mission Shark Bytes

Agent Asha: Mission Shark Bytes
by Sophie Deen, illustrated by Anjan Sarkar (Walker Books) PB RRP $14.99 ISBN: 9781406382723

Reviewed by Dannielle Viera

One morning, 11-year-old computer whiz Asha Joshi receives a strange email from her local library that contains a hidden message: WE NEED ASHA. She races to the library with Tumble and Drone, her two robotic friends, and soon discovers the headquarters of the top-secret Children’s Spy Agency (CSA). Recruited to the agency thanks to her computer knowledge and her need to question everything, Asha’s first mission is a dangerous one: find out who – or what – is attacking the world’s undersea Internet cables. She will have to use all of her coding and critical thinking skills to save the day … before she and her friends become shark bait.

Sophie Deen has hit on a winning formula with Agent Asha: Mission Shark Bytes. Computer coding and other STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and maths) are increasing in popularity with middle-grade students, and this thrill-a-minute book drops readers right into the centre of the cyber story. Readers work alongside Asha, deciphering Morse code messages using the provided key, debugging a computer program, and utilising a flow chart to solve a problem, all the while learning about fake news, secure passwords, shark species and more. And there are plenty of fabulous fart jokes throughout the book to make kids giggle.

Anjan Sarkar’s graphic-design skills are put to good use in the book, with elaborate images of computer screens, complicated codes, case files, the CSA training manual, flow charts and more breaking up the chapter text. The technical style of the images is in keeping with the STEM subject matter but is suitably softened by cartoon-like illustrations of Asha and her friends in action.

With a proactive protagonist and edge-of-your-seat exploits, Agent Asha: Mission Shark Bytes will appeal to both boys and girls aged eight and over. Once the last page has been turned, kids can continue their adventures with Asha by scanning the QR code on the back cover of the book and downloading the free CSA World Spy HQ app.

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