Kensy and Max: Spy Journal by Jacqueline Harvey

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Reviewed by Clare Brook

This brilliant idea will get primary school-aged people thinking, writing and learning, all at the same time, in their very own stylish hardback journal.  

The Kensy and Max:  Spy Journal complements Jacqueline Harvey’s Kensy and Max series published by Penguin Random House.  Jacqueline Harvey is an experienced educator whose career as teacher, Deputy Head of Junior School, and Director of Development spanned twenty-odd years, before she became a successful children’s author.  Kensy and Max are twins who have a few mysteries to solve. There are five books available in the series: Breaking News, Disappearing Act, Undercover, Freefall and Out of Sight.  Although the journal has been designed with the books in mind, I think it could also be a stand-alone gift, as there are plenty of guided activities to get the young reader/writer inspired. 

It begins with a ‘how to use this journal’ section, which introduces the different activities. There are tips on how to do code-breaking and making codes. This will get young readers thinking and having fun at the same time.   Language skills are an important part of the spy’s repertoire, so learning key phrases is a good idea.  Budding spies are encouraged to research phrases such as: I’m sorry, please, thank you etc and then make notes in the grid available.   Next a crossword with spy related clues, and then a ‘where to hide things’.   The ‘Real-life skills’ section suggests activities that are perfect for a spy in training, such as tying knots, debating, memory games, and orienteering.   ‘Navigating the old-fashioned way’ section might come as a shock to the sat-nav generation, but useful nonetheless.  ‘How to ask questions discreetly’, and ‘how to tell if someone’s lying’, are also sections that teach good life skills.  There are lessons on ‘Invisible ink’, ‘creating codenames’, and lastly, ‘writing down your personal profile’.   After that, empty lined pages with dramatic black borders encourage participants to write their own stories, or just keep a daily journal of their activities and the people they meet. 

The Kensy and Max:  Spy Journal is presented within a hardback black cover with a graphic of Kensy and Max profiled dramatically in silver.  There is an elastic black strap that keeps the journal closed and gives the impression of it being an official document, all of which encourages young writers to keep a journal of daily observations

Kensy and Max:  Spy Journal


Jacqueline Harvey

Puffin Books

Penguin Random House


ISBN: 9780143796978       

$17.99; Pp.192


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