"Spy Kids" and The Toys
    by John Cech

That's a scene from the first "Spy Kids" movie, one of the surprise hits of last summer, when the kids, Carmen and Juni Cortez, discover that their parents are really spies, "good ones," and soon find themselves on a non-stop, high-energy adventure that takes them through the air and under the ocean to the lair of the criminal mastermind, Fegan Floop, who is masquerading as the campy host of a children's television program. The writer and director of the film, Robert Rodriguez, has blended humor with taught action, and more gizmos than a James Bond movie -- and more surprises, too. It's an intelligent, funny, and stylish movie, in which the kids save the day and their parents.

The video is well worth seeing, especially if your youngsters are longing for a good movie this summer and waiting for the chance to see the much-anticipated sequel, "Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams" which has just opened, and reunites many of the same cast members. This time the kids and their parents are in business together. And if your youngsters still haven't had enough cloak and gizmo after both of the movies, they can find more on the Spy Kids website, spykids.com. The "Spy Kids" phenomenon is only the tip of an iceberg which includes a closet full of "spy toys" (like the Supersonic Ear listening device or the Spy Vision Goggles with Night Vision). And then there is a growing new genre of criminal mastermind books that have swept into the collective consciousness of older children since last year. Take the Artemis Fowl books, by Eoin Colfer about a child genius turned bad who, in the first book, has hatched a plan to steal the gold of the fairies (yes, they do exist), and, in the second, The Artic Adventure, which has just been published, Colfer has Artemis trying to rescue his long lost father from the Russian mafia and, at the same time helping the fairies avert a take-over of their world by the pixies. Critics are calling it the next Harry Potter. Something, indeed, is in the air.

Copyright 2002, John Cech

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August 2001
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"Recess!" is a co-production of the University of Florida's Center for the Study of Children's Literature and Media and WUFT-FM, "Classic 89."