Top 10: Spy and Superhero Chapter Books for Kids

Top 10: Spy and Superhero Chapter Books for Kids

My son has recently become very interested in DC and Marvel comics from the video game Injustice. It’s been great because, though a video game that he played a lot, it’s led to him reading comics, learning about comic book artist icons and drawing his own comics.

my son's comics based on DC and Marvel comic superheroes

We’ve been reading about spy and superheroes in books at home as well over the past two years. In some of these books, the protagonist is in a highly trained school for espionage, but in others, it’s just an ordinary kid called upon to go undercover. Some have special powers, some do not, but they all entertain!

These spy/superhero books are almost as good as a video game! Here are a few of our favorites. I’m finding that if this topic appeals to your child, you can slip in other authors and genres to keep the reading going!

boys drawing comics

How about you? What are your favorite spy or superhero books for kids? Thanks for sharing!


10. Sidekicks by Dan Santat

The perfect introduction to superheroes in a graphic novel format! Dan Santat (Caldecott WINNER Dan Santat) has a story about an aging superhero who decides he needs a sidekick to keep pace with the bad guys but doesn’t include his pets in the audition process. The pets are very unhappy about this and take matters into their own hands. [graphic novel, ages 6 and up]

9. Playing with Fire (A School for Spies Novel) by Bruce Hale

Trouble always seem to find Max Segredo no matter which foster home he ends up in. He’s one house fire away from Juvie Hall when he lands at Merry Sunshine Orphanage. It turns out that the kids here are very well trained in highly specialized spy and combat skills. And he might not be an orphan after all! If you can take a comic book or a cartoon and turn it into a chapter book, then this is what you get: a very well paced, action adventure with lots of twists and turns and nefarious characters to savor. Boys who like spy books will love this one! [chapter book, ages 8 and up]

8. Spy School by Stuart Gibbs

Does the CIA have an Academy of Espionage and do they recruit nerdy awkward kids rather than James Bond types? Ben Ripley is only in middle school but he’s dream job is the CIA so when they come knocking about letting him into a super secret spy school, he’s in. The only thing is, there might be mistaken identity involved. But Ben wants to make this work; the suave spy always gets the girl and he has his eye on a girl! [chapter book, ages 9 and up]

7. Sidekicked by John David Anderson

Not all superhero stories have happy endings. Sometimes superheroes get jaded and burnt out. Andrew Bean is a sidekick superhero-in-training, incognito, of course, but it’s not easy to fight crime, go to school and keep your identity secret from everyone. And it doesn’t help that his superhero is jaded and burnt out, spending more time at a bar, then doing his mentoring duties. This is not your typical superhero story, but perfect for a slightly cynical reader who appreciates an ending that isn’t all neatly buttoned up. [young adult, ages 12 and up]

6. Double Vision: Code Name 711 series by F. T. Bradley

The premise of the story might be far-fetched but that doesn’t stop the book from being an enjoyable read. Did George Washington really have a coat that makes the wear invincible? 12-year-old Linc Baker must go undercover in Washington, DC, to stop a CIA mole from assassinating the president and get this coat back into safe hands. And there’s a whiff of romance between Linc and the president’s daughter. And did I mention the president of the United States is a woman? That’s my favorite part! My son’s favorite part however, is the cloak and dagger spy mission. [chapter book, ages 8 and up]

5. Steel Trap: The Academy by Ridley Pearson

Another “all is not as it seems” chapter book in which an elite east coast boarding school covers as a spy training school that serves as a recruiting source for young undercover operatives. Steven “Steel” Trapp’s FBI father enrolls him at this school not realizing that foreign agent bad guys have infiltrated the school creating danger both for Steel inside the school as well as on the outside when he’s on a “job” in Boston. [chapter book, ages 10 and up]

4. N.E.R.D.S.: National Espionage, Rescue, and Defense Society (Book One) by Michael Buckley

I’m not sure if my son would relate to a nerdy version of spy school, but I know this is a hugely popular series for middle school boys. Though tagged for ages 8 and up, it seems to also work for reluctant boy readers ages 12 and up. Think Revenge of the Nerds via spy school with very technologically advanced gadgetry. I think my son would like the gadgets and the humor in this series. [chapter book, ages 9 and up]

3. I’d Tell You That I Love You But Then I’d Have to Kill You (Gallagher Girls) by Ally Carter

A perfect 6th grade/7th grade middle school read for girls. Grasshopper and Sensei learned about this series from friends’ recommendations (the most convincing kind) and read the entire series. Love that there is a strong girl character, who is an undercover spy, natch! [young adult, ages 12 and up]

2. Agent Colt Shore: Domino 29 by Axel Avian

Don’t mind the cover or the confusing title, this spy chapter book is one of the best ones I read! Think James Bond if he were a tween, from an unbeknownst to him elite spy family, getting shipped off to a special secret spy training school. And yes, there’s a mission involved! This is a fun pageturner! It’s probably meant for young adult, ages 12 or 14 and up, but it’s not too violent or sexual so it works for younger kids as well. This is going to be a series! [chapter book, ages 10 and up]

1. Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

This is an icon from my childhood that has stood the test of time. Spying back in my day wasn’t a cloak and dagger affair with high tech James Bond gadgets. A simple notebook and pencil will do the trick for spying for Harriet.  Maybe Harriet isn’t a superhero or a spy that is appreciated for her talents, but this coming-of-age story of secrets told and friendships tested is for any kid who feels misunderstood. Which is to say, everyone! The world might not be at stake in this old-fashioned classic, but I like my spy tales at this pace! [chapter book, ages 8 and up]


Spy and Superhero Schools in Chapter Books Honorable Mentions

Almost Super by Marion Jensen

Perfect for fans of Pixar’s The Incredibles, Almost Super is a fresh, funny middle grade adventure about two brothers in a family of superheroes who must find a way to be heroic despite receiving powers that are total duds. Filled with humor, heart, and just the right kind of heroics, Almost Super is a winning story that will satisfy would-be heroes and regular kids alike.

Erik of This Kid Reviews Books says that this is one of his favorites that should be added to this list. His review is here.

Mr. Jensen has written a fun superhero story that has a different twist. The book is packed with lots of humor and written in a style that all ages can enjoy, especially fans of comics and superheroes. It is a great choice for young advanced readers who are looking for something more than a chapter book. Rafter is a great guy. You really understand how he feels. He’s surrounded by totally super family – his great-aunt (whose power is way less than it was when she was younger) has a stronger power than he does! Benny is a character you just hope succeeds. He’s the really nice guy and he keeps trying and trying. I ended up cheering for Benny. 🙂 The story also has a good message – Don’t draw conclusions based on rumors/gossip or what other people are telling you. People aren’t always what other people tell you they are.

The Absolutely Amazing Adventures of Agent Auggie Spinoza by Steven Stickler

Set in Cambridge, Massachusetts (which is fun for us because we live the next town over), Auggie Spinoza is a typical 10-year-old boy until he notices a strange hole in his living room curtain. Turns out this hole is a portal for time travel and that he’s been secretly trained in necessary spy skills by his parents. Just in time too, because he’ll need to go back in time to fight against Time Vultures trying to manipulate history for their nefarious ends. Auggie gets an assist from another Time Watcher agent, 12-year-old Emily, as well as help from Plato, Jefferson, and Darwin. [chapter book, ages 8 and up]

Countdown Zero (The Codename Conspiracy #2) by Chris Rylander

Here’s a great review from Ms. YingLing Reads.

With well-developed characters, some of whom surprise us, as well as a believable back story as to why a tween spy is necessary, Rylander’s sequel is every bit as good as the first book, even if there is no herd of goats! Pure fantasy, of course, but I can see middle school students reading themselves right into the story. Great also that the plot involves a school trip and not an election!

To examine any book more closely at Amazon, please click on image of book.

Top 10: Spy and Superhero Chapter Books for Kids

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By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. Great selection of books! Your son’s comic strips are awesome!

  2. Marjorie (MWD)

    Great list, thank you – I shall stick it under my sons’ noses!
    Marjorie (MWD) recently posted…US Children’s Book Week 2015 Poster Now AvailableMy Profile

  3. I’ve not read spy books, so visiting here is an education! Tell your son I loved his drawing. I love that the books have inspired him to write/draw his own cartoons.
    Patricia Tilton recently posted…Mumbet’s Declaration of IndependenceMy Profile

    • Hi Patricia,
      I’ll certainly pass on your kind words to my son. He will be thrilled that people like his comics (though he might not have realized I photographed a few pages of his notebooks). He’s been drawing a lot lately: Green Arrow versus The Flash. I think The Flash is one of his favorites. I had no idea there was even an Green Arrow. I thought there was just Green Lantern. I’m behind in my DC/Marvel comics super hereos!
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Writing Tips for Children from NS BlackmanMy Profile

  4. This is an awesome post! With great books! 🙂 I’ve noticed something. In the DC Universe, extraterrestials are mentioned a lot, and that is how a good amount of superheroes get their powers (Green Lantern, Superman, The Martian Manhunter, etc.), along with magical/powerful objects (Vixen, Hawkman, Doctor Fate, etc.), while in the Marvel Universe, most of the heroes are normal humans that had something wacky done to them (The Fantastic Four, Bruce Banner (Hulk), Captain America, Spiderman, etc.) and may have been deemed mutants (Wolverine, Beast, Cyclops, (pretty much all X-Men), etc.). Isn’t that odd? 🙂
    Erik – TKRB recently posted…Perfect Picture Book Friday! Bigfoot is Missing! by J. Patrick Lewis and Kenn NesbittMy Profile

  5. What a great roundup! May I humbly add my own offering, Dirk Daring, Secret Agent (Orca Books, 2014) to the list?

    When Darren Dirkowitz’s evil stepbrother (code name Waldo) gets hold of Darren’s tippity-top-secret spy journal, he threatens to expose it to the entire Preston Middle School student body. Unless, that is, Darren starts doing his dirty work for him. Now Darren’s got to use the oh-so-cloak-and-daggery skills he’s honed in his secret alternate life as Dirk Daring, Secret Agent to spy on kids at school. Naturally, he also sets up a separate, sneaky surveillance program to unearth Waldo’s own secrets. As more and more ugly truths are exposed, new alliances are forged and old friendships broken. Can Darren learn to be true to himself and build real friendships for the first time in his life? Or will he retreat back into his exciting but imaginary shadow world?

    The book got great reviews so far from Kirkus, Booklist, SlJ and PW, and is super fun for girls and boys ages 8 and up. The sequel due out next year.

  6. Aliza

    I’ll add a book that has become very popular in our kids’ circles – “The Awesome Adventures of Pickle Boy” I enjoyed reading it to my kids (boy and girl) and was happy to find that it was exciting to me as well. I went to Amazon to post a review and saw that other parents had a similar experience. It’s a great fit for boys 9+ but girls seem to like it as well.

    Great website, by the way!

    A Mom who wants her kids to love reading

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