A Spy in the Neighborhood

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Paul: Never forget, that espionage flourishes while the world snores.


Three boys believe that a woman in their neighborhood may in fact be a spy for a foreign government. So they decide to do some spying themselves to try to get proof.

The kids themselves are:

  • Paul H. Botts - A smart kid who engages in Little Professor Dialog, but still makes kid-like mistakes and gets things wrong despite his wealth of knowledge and large (yet still appropriate) vocabulary, which is borderline Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness but tends to avoid crossing the line.
  • Quentin - The douchebag of the group. He gets amazed easily and says "wow" at inappropriate times, and says dumb and random things to people.
  • The narrator - The main character's name and gender are literally never given in the story. People just address him/her by talking to him/her without saying his/her name. S/he's a First-Person Smartass, narrating the story while making humorous comments on everything. If you go by cover art, the main character is a boy, but if you go by narrative, the main character could be anything.

Making things a bit complicated for the kids is the spy's pet chicken, who is considered a nuisance by her neighbor, who in turn is trying to get the chicken removed from the neighborhood via petition. If enough attention is brought to that issue, then the kids' plans will go up in smoke as they won't be able to spy on their suspected spy anymore. So they try to thwart her by taking the train to the big city and hiring a lawyer to try to get the petition shut down, which doesn't work out.

Having failed at that, the kids just decide to go ahead and spy on her anyway, showing up early in the morning to observe her and try to get as much information and proof as they can. Even with the help of the smart-for-his-age Paul, their efforts are still amateurish.

A Spy in the Neighborhood is a 1989 light-hearted, mildly comedic suburban adventure by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat, the author of Nate the Great.

Tropes used in A Spy in the Neighborhood include:

Paul: We can either crawl, walk, or run to the window. Crawling takes the most time, but has the lowest risk of being spotted. Walking takes longer, but makes no noise, and increases the risk that we will be seen. Running is the fastest, but also the noisiest. Now let's vote.

  • No Name Given - The main character.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness - Paul occasionally straddles the line or crosses it, depending on whom you ask. Most of his dialog, though, sounds like it could come from a regular kid who happens to have a form of Asperger's. (Especially the random details he sometimes gives)
  • Snooping Little Kid - Naturally.
  • Technology Marches On - This story was written in 1971. Some of its plot elements simply couldn't happen today.
  • We Need to Get Proof - The driving point of the story.