"James Choke hated Science. It should have been test tubes, jets of gas and sparks flying all over the place, like he'd imagined when he was still at primary school." What do these first lines in the book tell us about James? Is it the whole idea of school that he dislikes, or just the way that subjects are taught? "Samantha was a total cow", observes James. Not very polite (you'd never get Harry Potter saying that about Hermione, would you?). But is he right, do you think? "James stormed away from school". It's only page three, and the boy who's meant to be the hero of the book has already attacked a girl in his class, plus a female teacher. Has this put you off him? Permanently? Temporarily? Or not at all because you feel he was justified? Do you believe that some people just have a knack of getting into trouble when they don't mean to? Or do you think they bring it on themselves?
Chapter Three - James Is On His Own
"I don't have relatives. My nan died last year, and I don't know who my dad is" (page 20). Plus his mum's dead and his stepdad doesn't want to know. You can't get much more alone than that, can you? Can you think of other children's books where the main characters have parents who are either dead or missing?
Chapters Five To Eight - James On The Rampage
In the course of these four chapters, we see James stealing, smashing up a smart car, mixing with a violent gang and robbing an off-licence. Why does he do these things? Is it because deep down he is bad?
Killing The Chicken With A Pen (page 77)
Thankfully we don't get a description of James actually doing this (though we know he does). What do you think the author is trying to tell us about the kind of person you need to be in order to be a secret agent?
James Passes His Training Course (page 200)
It’s been hell, but he's made it through the wet, the cold, the exhaustion and the pain. Being shouted at by Mr Large, getting beaten up at martial arts by little Bruce, teaming up with Kerry (and her bad knee) in order to help each other through the course. What lessons about life do you think James has learnt during his time at Cherub?
Chapter 28 - James Gets His First Assignment (page 215)
Given that this is a book about child spies, are you surprised (or even annoyed) that it's taken so long for the author to get round to our hero's first mission?
Who's Right, Who's Wrong? (Chapters 29-40)
Basically, what James and Amy have to do is to worm their way into the lives and affections of the people who live at Fort Harmony - and then betray them. As James puts in on page 308, he's "stopped one small bunch of bad guys killing a big bunch of bad guys, and as a result the good guys get chucked out of their homes by another bunch of bad guys." What do you think? Does it matter that James and Amy used lies and tricks, if it meant saving lots of lives?
Who's This Book For?
Obviously the main character is a boy, but there are quite a lot of girl characters, too (Kerry, Amy, James's sister Lauren). Overall, though, do you think The Recruit is more a book for boys than girls?
Look Away Now
Quite a lot of what happens in The Recruit is rather, well, nasty. People swear, fight, cheat, lie, steal and are cruel to each other. Did that make you want to stop reading the book? And would you like to read another (there are eight more volumes in the Cherub series)?
Finally. What Does 'Cherub' Stand For?
Robert Muchamore says he's going to reveal all in his 12th and final Cherub book. All he will admit at present is that the first two letters stand for Charles Henderson, the British military officer who is meant to have devised the idea of training children as spies. So what do you think the "-erub" bit stands for?
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