Title: Howie Bowles, Secret AgentHowie-Bowles
Author: Kate Banks
Illustrator: Isaac Millman
Pages: 89
Reading Level: 8-10
Star Rating: ★★

I picked this up because the front cover showed a picture of a little boy in a trench coat and Fedora. The title – Howie Bowles – evoked Holmesian images before my mind. I hoped to meet a classy kid who unraveled little mind-benders. Well…

The Story.

Howie Bowles is unhappy. And he’s nervous. See, his family has just moved into a new house in a new neighborhood, a new place. And now he has to go to a new school. Why can’t he just stay home???

Howie attends school the first day, and it’s every bit as awful as he knew it would be. The children don’t care about him – don’t think he’s interesting enough. Well, Howie’s going to make them interested in him! And he’s going to do it by one of the sneakiest methods he knows – he’ll create a secret identity for himself as a secret agent!

But will Howie’s idea work? Will he make any new friends, or will he forever be the outsider?


Howie is a nervous, insecure boy. When he finds himself in a new circle, he is far too shy to make friends on the strength of his own character. So, he decides to create a new identity for himself. Styling himself as Howie Bowles, Secret Agent Bean Burger, Howie invests himself with new power and social interest.

Howie’s parents play no role in Howie’s life other than to give him platitudinous advice. I found Howie’s state to be both pitiable and shameful – he is a shy, delicate personality who is forced into the maelstrom of the classroom. He knows nothing of true relationships, so, when called upon to function in a social environment, he defaults to what he does know – TV. In order to be someone worth knowing, he must be exciting, daring! He must become a secret agent! And so, up until the very last pages, he puts on an act, covering his true nature and relying on lies to gain him friends. Finally, in the end, he decides to be just plain Howie Bowles again, but it is unclear what prompts this decision.


Howie thinks that a particular girl is cute and is ecstatic when he discovers that she thinks he is cute.

In one scene, Howie’s teacher stands on a chair, accidentally showing her slip, which embarrasses Howie.

Howie thinks that he would like to punch a girl who makes faces at him.

Howie says that he always wears something with a hole in it for good luck.

Howie and his brother watch TV programs.

‘Gee’ is used twice.

Conclusion. Not recommended.

Review © 2013 Laura Verret

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