Monday, 27 May 2013

James Bond memes in children's books

The Young Bond series by Charlie Higson is the latest attempt to introduce young readers to James Bond and the essential traits of any Bondian adventure, among them thrilling car chases, grotesque villains, exotic locations, and dangerous femme fatales. Before Young Bond, there were the James Bond Jr books, which, based on the animated series, were published in two formats: 'Ladybird' style books for ages c 5-7, and longer stories for older readers aged c 8-11. But the first Bond adventure for children was R D Mascott's The Adventures of James Bond Junior: 003½, published in 1967. Beyond these 'official' publications, however, there are many more children's books that trade on aspects of James Bond lore. In this post, I'll ignore books for teenagers (notably the Alex Rider books by Anthony Horowitz) and focus on some of the books available for younger children.

One of the most successful series is the Spy Dog books by Andrew Cope. The first, Spy Dog, was published by Puffin Books in 2005. In it, a dog called Lara (actually a 'Licensed Assault and Rescue Animal') is trained by the British Secret Service to carry out dangerous missions and thwart crime. After her latest mission goes wrong, Lara, or Agent GM451, is forced to hide as a family dog and wait for a rescue. Meanwhile, Mr Big, a drug dealer whose plans were stopped by Lara, will do anything to get his hands on Lara and exact his revenge. Anyone familiar with the Bond films would recognise the Bond-style gadgets, an opening chapter that serves as a literary pre-title sequence, and a cover that recalls the gun barrel that opens (or closes) every Bond film. A further eight adventures have followed, and Andrew Cope has also penned a series of Spy Pups books, whose covers also feature a gun-barrel-style motif, and Spy Cat, which is published in July.

Other animal-related spy adventures include My Hamster is a Spy (published in July 2013), by Dave Lowe and illustrated by Mark Chambers; like Spy Dog, the cover image adapts the gun-barrel design. Then there are the Spy Mice stories by Heather Vogel Frederick. Judging by the cover images, the stories take elements from other films, such as Mission: Impossible, but the titles are definitely Bond-inspired: Goldwhiskers (2013) and For Your Paws Only (2006).

A version of the gun-barrel motif is used again on the cover of Jeremy Brown: Secret Agent, a collection of three books by Simon Cheshire that describe the exploits of the eponymous schoolboy and MI7 agent. In the first adventure, Jeremy Brown of the Secret Service (2001), Jeremy is tasked with retrieving a sophisticated satellite that has fallen to earth before the villains do (villains who belong to the SPECTRE-inspired ROTTEN, the Rancid Organisation for Terror, Threats, Evil and Nastiness).

Spy Dog and Jeremy Brown are written for children 8-12. For younger children, there is 006 and a Bit (the first edition was called 006 and a Half) by Kes Gray and Nick Sherratt, published in 2007. The book is one in a series that features Daisy, a mischievous girl who gets into trouble through no fault of her own, or so she claims. Apart from the title, which clearly references Bond's code number, 006 and a Bit has a cover which brings to mind the white dot on the black screen that starts the gun-barrel sequence, and inside the cover are images of Daisy in silhouette which recall images of Bond in some of Maurice Binder's titles.

Outside the official James Bond-related books, Bondian memes have been incorporated in a range of children's books, and are passed on to children as the books are read and re-read. Even before children have seen a Bond film, some of them will have become familiar with some of its iconography and traits, which in a small way helps to keep interest in the Bond films (and perhaps the novels) going for another generation.


  1. The Andrew Cope stories also appear to take inspiration from Tomb Raider by naming their protagonist Lara. As for Jeremy Brown it is surely not a coincidence that his initials are JB.

  2. Hope these books will not cover kissing paragraphs and all.


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