Kensy and Max: Breaking news by Jacqueline Harvey

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Penguin Random House, 2018. ISBN 9780143780656
(Age: 8-12) Highly recommended. Themes: Mystery. Adventure. Detectives. Family life. Spies. Brothers and sisters. Kensy and Max: Breaking news is a meticulously built mystery story, a wonderful introduction to a cast of new and intriguing characters, relatable protagonists, mysterious settings and fast-paced adventures. Popular children's author Jacqueline Harvey draws the reader in, sharing her creative insights into the development of Kensy and Max's characters. She shares her inspiration for her background setting of the Morpeth Arms pub with its secret underground spaces situated opposite the London headquarters of MI6.
Eleven year old twins Kensy and Max enjoy a nomadic lifestyle travelling the world with their parents, who work in the ski fields and medical clinics. Changes occur when their parents disappear on an African holiday and the twins are driven across Europe to the relative safety of a huge ancestral home in North Yorkshire. Feisty Kensy and more measured Max explore Dame Spencer's vast home and gardens uncovering secret rooms, quirky characters, hidden cameras and treasures from their past. Fitz their constant companion, tutor and manny, travels to London to investigate their parent's whereabouts leaving Kensy and Max in the safe hands of Song the quirky butler.
With Fitz planning to leave for Africa to search for the missing parents, the twins move to Dame Spencer's townhouse with Song and are placed in the Central London Free School. On their first day, eccentric headmaster Mr MacGregor challenges Max to a computer generated race around London where the young boy's brilliant memory and map reading skills prove advantageous. Kensy and Max settle in to school life, curiously observing mysterious activities and disappearances of their friends, secret meetings and their miraculous escape from a gallery.
Kensy and Max keep a special secret, a communication received from their parents via a message on Max's watch.
Kensy and Max: Breaking news is a suspenseful, intriguing and finely crafted story perfect for readers who enjoy action-packed spy stories. Jacqueline Harvey's initial novel introduces exciting characters, mysterious settings and family secrets waiting to be uncovered. Here the author teases us with little clues, snippets of information, curious conversations with people instrumental in their future plans, and this builds an air of excitement and promise for future stories. Her writing style is bright and lively, alliterative and lyrically descriptive, and the protagonists are perfect foils, each with a unique set of skills and traits that complement the other. The author peoples her narrative with colourful characters, even the settings are imbued with special secretive qualities.
For Middle Primary English students, this narrative provides excellent examples of character development, plot tension, genre writing and presenting realistic settings.
Rhyllis Bignell