Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

TPIB: Secret Agent Man for the Summer

A lot of librarians I’ve talked to who are working within the Collaborative Summer Reading Program are doing ground things for “Dig Up A Good Book”- touch a truck programs, digging animals, etc. And for “Beneath The Surface” there are a lot of spa treatment programs, mermaids, and technology. I must be weird because my brain went directly to SPIES and SECRET AGENTS. Maybe it’s because I’ve just finished reading two assassin/mystery books back to back- who knows. At any rate, if you are thinking about going the spy and secret agent route, I’ve pulled together activities, crafts, and movies after the jump! See if you can get through a program without humming the Mission:Impossible theme, The Pink Panther theme, or Peter Gunn.


Scatter picture clues around the room (or around the library) and give out mystery sheets that have secrets to the clues to each participant. You could do shadow figures of literary characters, or hide cards in specific type of books (bring back a Wookie Cookie from the Star Wars Cookbook). Tweens/teens can go solo or do it in groups, and it can be an active part of your program, or a self-directed part of your summer reading, just by changing up the pictures and clues every couple of weeks.

Create a multitude of secret identities beforehand based off of literary and movie spies and detectives (James Bond, Austin Powers, Agatha Christie, Encyclopedia Brown) with a cheat sheet of characteristics that describe each secret agent. Hand these out to each participant. Taking a second list with just the names, cut them apart and place them in a bucket or a hat. Then have each person playing take pull a name out of the hat, and they will have to investigate each other to figure out who their secret person is, without lying but without giving away their secret identity. The first to figure out who their suspect is without being discovered is the winner.


I’m always surprised about how many of the teens/tweens I work with have *never* played Clue- it was a game I grew up with and was a staple at our house. You can do a host of things to make it interesting- do a live Clue version, or take the board game but replace the weapons with larger ones (an actual wrench and candlestick, a water gun and a fake knife, etc.). Break the group up into teams, and have at it.

Take a spin on madlibs by creating your own spy story. Find short mysteries stories, and copy them out leaving key words blank, then have tweens/teens fill them in without knowing the results.

The object is to get rid of all your cards (and catch a comrade in a lie along the way). Each player gets seven cards, while the rest are turned face down in a drawing pile. The dealer starts by laying a card or cards from his hand face down on the table, then declaring their value (for example, “three sevens”). The next player has to add a card or cards of the next highest value (in this case, eights). If he or she has no such card, the choice is either to pick from the drawing pile–or to fake it. Any player can challenge by saying, “Lie detector,” but when the truth is revealed, whoever is wrong inherits all the cards in the facedown pile. 

Set up your own spy training by creating an indoor obstacle course.  Use crepe paper streamers or string to create a crazy maze that they must twist and turn to get through, and tie chairs together that they must crawl under or over.

If your tweens/teens have the tech and the ability, give them an outdoor activity and hide a set number of geocache on library property. Set them up in teams, point them in the right direction with a time to be back, and have them search for the secret mission!

My tweens and teens are still in love with mustaches. Find printables online for all different types of mustaches and weird glasses, and run them off on card stock. Have them cut them out, and make their own “sneaky” disguises and take pictures to show off.

Every spy needs their own binoculars.  You can pick up craft kits at places like Oriental Trading Company, or make your own with toilet paper tubes and leftover craft materials. Sample directions can be found here.
ID Kits

Every spy needs their own case file, so why not create one? Break into the office supplies and liberate the manila file folders and stamp a bunch CONFIDENTIAL, then place a bunch of activity sheets in them, like message decoders, a spy identity card, and randomize what agency they work for and what missions they have performed.
I am in LOVE with our public performance license, and love showing movies- and my tweens and teens seem to love finding “new” to them movies that they may not have watched before.  Below are selections of movies (G, PG & PG-13) that fit in the spy/secret agent genre that are covered by Movie Licensing USA- please don’t show a movie if you aren’t covered. If you’re looking for others, please check their website.

Austin Powers Series
James Bond Series
Agent Cody Banks 1& 2
Adventures of TinTin
Dick Tracy
Despicable Me
Inspector Gadget
The Incredibles
The Pink Panther
Scooby Doo Series
Spy Kids Series
Turner and Hooch
Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
Jack Reacher
Bourne Series
Mission:Impossible series

Also, some of the activities on this CSI TPiB would work well for the theme as well.

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