Andrew North Blows Up the World

Andrew North Blows Up the World

4.0 2
by Adam Selzer

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A dynamic and hilarious new hero for early middle-grade.

Andrew "Danger" North is no ordinary third-grader. He, his brother, Jack, and his father are spies. That is what Jack has always told him, and everything Andrew has learned from his dad’s favorite spy movies tells him it must be true. When Andrew comes across his brother’s graphing


A dynamic and hilarious new hero for early middle-grade.

Andrew "Danger" North is no ordinary third-grader. He, his brother, Jack, and his father are spies. That is what Jack has always told him, and everything Andrew has learned from his dad’s favorite spy movies tells him it must be true. When Andrew comes across his brother’s graphing calculator, he’s sure it’s a communication device that will put him in touch with the secret spy headquarters. But instead of punching in a greeting to the spy society, Andrew accidentally punches in a code that might blow up the world! And if that isn’t bad enough, his math teacher then confiscates the top secret communication device and takes it to the mysterious Storage Room B. Now Andrew is on a spy mission to find his brother’s communicator and save the world from mass destruction. Will he be able to save the world?

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Cynthia Levinson
Fortunately for middle-grade readers, the creative part of Adam Selzer's brain got stuck in third grade. He includes in this book all the age-appropriate words and issues—puking, bullies, and spies, not to mention a prissy girl in a minor role. At the same time, also fortunately, whatever part of the brain is responsible for crafting a novel, Selzer's kept growing. This novel manages to be funny, suspenseful, and sweet. Andrew North is certain his family is a cell of professional spies. What else could explain his father's dull job selling insurance, his mother's boring casseroles, or, the tendency of his older brother, Jack, to close his bedroom door whenever Andrew appears? All of these must be covers for their true identities. Anyway, Jack has told him they are spies and also that the school janitor was a soldier who fought for the Russians in the Cold War and murders students who try to sneak into the mysterious Storage Room B. Each chapter opens with a brief peek into Andrew's spy-oriented imagination. Jack's algebraic calculator, for instance, which Andrew takes from Jack's room, must be a "super-powerful spy gadget" whose "COS" and "Y=" buttons can blow up the world. When Andrew's teacher confiscates the calculator, which ends up in Storage Room B, Andrew is in trouble. Complicating the situation is Andrew's upcoming solo choral performance, to which he must wear the fuzzy squirrel sweater his aunt made him. That a purloined calculator and a looming concert can make for a suspenseful story is part of Selzer's sweet genius for craft. That Andrew comes to terms with his family's boring life—and then rejects the realization to return to a world of spies and mischief ishis spot-on middle-grade mentality. Reviewer: Cynthia Levinson
School Library Journal
Gr 4–6—Andrew "Danger" North is a spy-in-training who must overcome the evil Dr. Cringe (his school's janitor) to steal back a spy machine (a confiscated calculator) that might blow up the world. Only then can he become a professional spy like his father and brother. Or at least that's what he believes since his older brother has been telling him all about the spy world for years. In the midst of this, the boy must sing a solo at his school music recital, which he believes the head of the undercover organization will be attending. It will be obvious to readers that Andrew's dad is actually an insurance salesman and that the boy attends a normal school. Selzer's plot plods a bit, and it is unclear in the end whether the protagonist has finally realized that his intrigue is made up or whether he still believes that there are real spies at his school. Still, Andrew has a great imagination, and his friends and moody teenaged brother are interesting characters whom kids could see as being part of their own worlds.—Clare A. Dombrowski, Amesbury Public Library, MA
Kirkus Reviews
Third grader Andrew "Danger" North can't wait to get into the family business. Though his father says he sells insurance, Andrew has been told by his 13-year-old brother, Jack, that this is just a cover story; their father is an international superspy. Jack, in fact, has already "gone pro" himself. When Andrew "borrows" Jack's TC-99 graphing calculator (which he's certain is a spy device capable of blowing up the world), his teacher confiscates it and sends it to Storage Room B for the weekend. Frightening stories about the room and its guardian, custodian Mr. Gormulka (definitely an evil spymaster in Andrew's mind), abound at school, and getting the calculator back before Jack notices it's gone tests Andrew's spy skills and his nerve. The reading level of Selzer's first for the younger set is a bit above its target audience, and Andrew's gullibility will definitely stretch credulity. That said, the odd characters and the silly, over-the-top chapter intros that feature Andrew's spy-mission imaginings will entertain sophisticated readers looking for fluff adventure. (Fiction. 7-10)
Publishers Weekly
Selzer's (How to Get Suspended and Influence People) madcap comedy stars a likable third-grader with an overblown imagination and ambitious plans. Convinced that his father and older brother, Jack, are undercover spies, Andrew aspires to enter the family business and become a super-spy with a pet monkey as sidekick. When the boy brings Jack's calculator (which he's sure is a "spy gadget") to school, his teacher confiscates it and locks it in a storage room that is the domain of a grumpy janitor, who Andrew suspects is also a spy. The boy's mission to retrieve the calculator before the janitor uses it to blow up the school and before his brother notices that it's missing entails some crafty plotting that brings this fast-moving story to a tidy end. Selzer adds an affecting undercurrent: Andrew's dealing with Jack's remoteness since turning 13 ("I knew it was because he was busy with spy stuff, but it still stank. I missed hanging out with him"). Despite the narrator's flights of fancy, he is a credible, down-to-earth kid. Ages 7—10. (Sept.)

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Sold by:
Random House
File size:
2 MB
Age Range:
7 - 10 Years

Read an Excerpt


Secret Agent Andrew "Danger" North moved like a cat through the Forbidden Zone. He ducked around piles of dirty clothes, hopped over stacks of used paper plates, and sifted through garbage. He needed every last one of his spy skills to find anything in a mess like this. All the years he'd kept his own room messy paid off regularly in his line of work.

But, like all good spies, even though his room was messy, his hair was perfect.

Beneath the papers that were piled in the corner, he saw it: the TC-99. To most people, it just looked like a really big calculator. But Agent North knew better. The TC-99 was a superpowerful spy gadget. He didn't know for sure what it could do, but he believed it could be used to shoot laser beams, send messages to headquarters, and, most likely, blow things up. North was determined to discover its secrets.

He gazed at the machine, with its big screen and strange buttons. Buttons like VARS, COS, and Y=. What could they possibly mean? Clearly it was some sort of spy code, but which of them would blow stuff up?

He would have to be careful, of course, but Agent North had never blown anything up that didn't deserve to get blown up. He dropped the TC-99 into his backpack and slipped out of the Forbidden Zone. The owner of the TC-99 would never even know he had been there . . .

Lying to Tony Zunker is probably the most popular sport in my whole school.
The day before the music program, someone told him he was on pace to break the world's record for Most Times Ever Getting Up to Sharpen Your Pencil in One Month. And he believed it.

I was pretending to pay attention in math class--but was really peeking into my desk to look at my brother's -calculator--when Tony Zunker got up to sharpen his pencil again.

"How many are you up to today?" I whispered as he passed by.

"Twelve," he said.

Poor Tony. Lying to him isn't really much of a sport, if you ask me. He believes everything he hears!

Personally, I only believe stuff when I've thought it over and decided that it really makes sense. Like when my brother, Jack, told me that our dad is a spy and that he was training to be one, too, I didn't believe him at first. Who would? It sounded pretty crazy.

But then I started thinking about Dad. Sure, he has a huge collection of spy movies, and he loves to watch them with me and Jack, but lots of dads have those. What really tipped me off was his job. He tells people--including me--that he's an insurance salesman. But he can't even talk me into eating peas! How could he talk people into buying life insurance? Something strange was going on, all right.

That was when I started thinking about Dad's spy movies. In those movies, all the spies have a fake job to tell normal people about--something that sounds really boring, like insurance salesman. That way, when the spy tells people he sells insurance, they don't say, "Oh, neat! Tell me more!" They just change the subject, because they're afraid that if they don't, he'll start trying to sell insurance to them or something, and they'll be bored to death.

I was beginning to feel like I was really on to something. But how could I be sure? I mean, clearly, Dad has to be really secretive about this whole thing, so he'd never admit it to me out loud. And he's really good about keeping all his spy gear hidden away--Jack says it's all hidden in a big secret chamber under our basement, and I've never been able to find it.

But one day, when I was digging through his desk, I found something that proved Dad is a spy! It was a bunch of old rings that had all these letters and numbers all over them. A whole stash of secret decoder rings!

I asked Dad what they were, just to see how he'd cover it up. He chuckled and said, "Oh, that's just my collection of old rings from cereal boxes."

Riiiiight. I knew the truth. Jack taught me this little bit of spy knowledge: when people chuckle before they say something like that, it usually means they're lying. Those rings were no -cereal--box prizes. They were proof that I come from a family of spies!

Really, with a name like Andrew North, I was born to be a spy. It's a perfect name for a spy, or even a movie star, or the president, for that matter. It has that kind of ring to it. If Tony Zunker ever becomes a spy, he'll probably have to change his name, because no bad guys will get nervous when they hear that a guy named Tony Zunker is coming after them. But when they hear that Andrew "Danger" North is on their case, they'll know their days are numbered.

I'm pretty sure Jack got called up to the pros when he turned thirteen. Maybe it was a birthday present. Ever since then, he's spent all his time just hanging around in his room, acting really secretive. He stopped teaching me spy tricks and telling me weird secrets about our town, Cornersville Trace. I guess he's not allowed to now.

He told me a lot of weird secrets before. Like how Johnny Christmas, the rock star who died in 1979, isn't really dead at all. What really happened is that he got addicted to hot dogs and had to fake his death, because he was too embarrassed to go onstage when he couldn't fit into his jumpsuits anymore. He changed his name to Wayne Schneider and moved to the suburbs, where they'd never find him. He lives down the street from us now. It's awesome to know a secret like that. And I know it's true, too, because every time I walk past Mr. Schneider's house, I swear I smell mustard.

Mr. Summers, my teacher, didn't seem to notice that Tony was sharpening his pencil for the twelfth time that morning. Mr. Summers is a nice guy, but he'd never make it as a spy.

He did notice that I wasn't taking notes about math, though.

"Andrew?" he said, looking down at my paper. "Are you paying attention?"

"Sure I am!" I said.

"Well, make sure I see numbers on your page," Mr. Summers warned me.

See, he's a nice guy. He even lets us wear hats in class. He's young--younger than my parents, even. But I think that because he's so young, he hasn't learned that some of us just have too much on our minds to worry about division every day.

From the Hardcover edition.

Meet the Author

Adam Selzer is the author of How to Get Suspended and Influence People, Pirates of the Retail Wasteland, and I Put a Spell on You. In addition to his work as a tour guide and assistant ghostbuster (really), he moonlights as a rock star. Check him out on the Web at

From the Hardcover edition.

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