Recommended for ages 8-12
Are you parents sooo boring? Are they too strict? Like your brother/sister/dog better than you? Not wealthy enough to give you the lifestyle you want to become accustomed to? What would you do if you could pick your own parents: what would be on your wish list? Barry Bennett feels the same way. His parents are too boring, they’re not rich, they’re strict, they named him Barry, and after they mess up his perfect idea of a James Bond birthday, he’s fed up. He wishes he had new parents, and finds himself transported to an a parallel universe, where an organization called The Parent Agency helps kids test drive and select the perfect parents for them. The thing is, picking parents out, even when you have an incredibly detailed list of demands? Not as easy as you’d think.
The Parent Agency is a fun book, with a premise all kids will appreciate: kids who want new parents. Parents that will let them do anything, get anything, be anything they want, but there’s always a catch. Kids learn that just because someone looks good on paper doesn’t mean that they’ll be as wonderful in reality. Barry meets parents who fit a certain mold, but they expect their children to fit into that mold, too – and who wants to do that? That whole unconditional love business comes into play, and gives Barry the wake-up call he needs.
Kids will get a good laugh out of the book – the laid back, hippie parents gave me some laugh-out-loud moments, as did the talking posters in Barry’s room. Jim Field’s black and white illustrations throughout add to the laughs. Booktalk this one with The Chocolate Touch by Patrick Skene Catling and Judy Blume’s Freckle Juice for “the other side isn’t always greener” type reading. Ask kids to come up with their own Parent Agency lists, and try to debunk them – playing devil’s advocate can be fun!
Originally published in the UK, The Parent Agency has finally reached U.S. shores. David Baddiel is a comedian, TV host, and author; The Parent Agency is his first children’s book.