Agent Asha : Mission Shark Bytes by Sophie Deen
Illus. by Anjan Sarkar. Walker Books, 2020. ISBN: 9781406382723.
(Ages: 10 - 12) Recommended. It isn't long until we learn 11 year old Londoner, Asha, has been recruited by CSA, Children's Spy Agency, and her mission is to save the internet. Asha's ability to hack and upgrade her nannybot Drone and enhance Tumble, her hamster robot, have alerted CSA to her amazing talents. Sharks have been chewing through undersea cables which provide vital internet connections between continents. Simple everyday things we rely on like mobile phones and instant news, stop working. Her boss Hedy (a hologram!) sends her to uncover essential data from ShellyInc. This company is headed up by Shelly, a 17 year old tech entrepreneur of a globally popular IT company. However Shelly is definitely up to no good and aims to take control of the internet and increase her vast wealth. Asha goes above and beyond her mission in order to prevent Shelly being successful and Drone and Tumble assist her along the way, as well as other CSA operatives.
Needless to say this is a totally implausible but enjoyable spy adventure. It is fast paced and quite clever with humorous spy tropes. There are crazy inventions like the "What-a-bottle," a water purifier with inbuilt gadgets like a laser torch and diamond glass cutter. Asha is the Bond-like, risk-taking, main character with an Indian cultural background. She is a good role model for young women who may be keen on STEM. I liked the CSA motto too, "Think for yourself. Question everything." The author may be a bit too keen to slip in some didactic IT lessons, such as the importance of strong passwords, algorithms and Bluetooth. The overuse of farts was an obvious pitch to young readers but I guess it works! There are many really fitting illustrations and fact files provide further information. Another hook for readers is they can join CSA via a QR code, no adults allowed.