by Sarah Ellis
Twelve-year-old Kip is spending the summer with his grandmother and his five cousins, all of whom are female, talkative, and enthusiastically active. His mother has just remarried and he's not sure what life will be like when his family reforms. Gran's seaside home is different. The house has been sold and is slated for demolition, so Kip and the girls are free to write on the walls, paint them, and or bash them with sledgehammers. The tribe of girls take a while to get used to, but Kip's attic bedroom is a welcome retreat. There he finds his deceased father's adolescent journal, a binder filled with drawings, diagrams, and photographs. They tell a story of espionage, secret plots, and a boy called the Operative. Kip feels an instant connection to this story, not only because it's exciting, but because his dad was so creative. But this image is shattered when Kip learns that his father suffered from paranoia and delusions and that the journal was the record of life as he saw it, not a story after all.
This is a thoughtful and often funny tale of a boy who doesn't quite fit in, and how he starts to accept himself and his abilities.