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Mission Manhattan

Book #5 of City Spies

About The Book

In this fifth installment in the New York Times bestselling series from Edgar Award winner James Ponti, the young group of spies takes on New York City in another international adventure perfect for fans of Spy School and Charlie Thorne.

The City Spies head to the Big Apple when a credible threat is made to a young climate activist who is scheduled to speak in front of the upcoming United Nations General Assembly. With Rio acting as alpha and a new member in their ranks, the team’s mission to protect a fellow teen takes them on an exciting adventure in, around, and even under the greatest city in the world as they follow leads to the outer boroughs, the UN Headquarters, and even the usually off-limits stacks that extend deep under the main branch of the New York Public Library. Meanwhile, Mother has run into trouble in DC, leading the rest of the crew to help save him from the wrong hands and prevent the entire operation from being exposed!

Reading Group Guide

Reading Group Guide

City Spies Book 5: Mission Manhattan

By James Ponti

About the Book

The City Spies head to the Big Apple when a credible threat is made to a young climate activist who is scheduled to speak in front of the upcoming United Nations General Assembly. With Rio acting as alpha and a new member in their ranks, the team’s mission to protect a fellow teen takes them on an exciting adventure in, around, and even under the greatest city in the world as they follow leads to the outer boroughs, the UN Headquarters, and even the usually off-limits stacks that extend deep under the main branch of the New York Public Library.

Discussion Questions

1. As Mission Manhattan opens, readers are told that from Cairo’s perspective, “Spy missions were nothing like spy movies.” Do you think he’s probably correct? Based on what you’ve observed in films and television shows, how are spies generally depicted? In what ways are these portrayals unlike the City Spies and their experiences?

2. While sharing his discomfort in his disguise to do mission work, Paris—“who wore a matching outfit and was smearing black and yellow greasepaint” on his face—tells Cairo, “‘When it comes to spycraft, the bottom line is that comfort takes a backseat to blending in.’” (Chapter one) Based on what you’ve observed from past missions and the one they are partaking in, why is blending in so critical for mission success?

3. Early in Mission Manhattan, readers learn that the City Spies have been sent to Venice, Italy, to the site of a protest organized by teen environmental activists. Beyond the intentions of the teen activists known as the Swarm, how does learning that young people can find ways to be seen and heard about causes they are committed to make you feel? What do you see as the biggest hurdles young people face while speaking up about things to which they are committed?

4. At the beginning of the mission, Kat is given the distinction of the mission alpha, which means she is charged with decision making for the team. Based on what you’ve learned about Kat from earlier books, what are the greatest skills Kat brings to this role? What might be the challenges she will face?

5. Consider the City Spies mission “go” phrase—“‘This operation is hot. We are a go.’” Why is getting to make this proclamation as a member of the team so thrilling, and what does it suggest about the person getting to do so?

6. During earlier assignments, Rio has often felt that his unique skills aren’t always noticed or appreciated by the City Spies team. However, in this case, “Although Kat was the alpha, Rio had the most important assignment. He was supposed to get close to Beatriz and watch over her since she was the most likely target of any attack. For him, this was huge, not only because it was rare for him to get such an important responsibility, but also because he was a massive fan of hers.” (Chapter one) How does Rio’s work on this mission really change things for him? What are some of the ways his experiences in his former life as a street performer and illusionist become critical for the overall outcome of this current mission?

7. Based on what you learn through reading Mission Manhattan and on your impressions of the City Spies throughout the series so far, how would you describe each member of the team? Are there ways in which you believe they have grown and changed in their time together?

8. As they share their nervousness due to lack of time to prepare for the Washington DC leg of this mission, Monty tells the team, “‘You all have the skills, and more importantly, you all have the right instincts. What’s the Motherism? The essential part is that you trust your heart. When the time comes, you’ll know what to do.’” (Chapter seventeen) What do you believe makes Monty, Mother, and the rest of MI6 so confident in the abilities of the City Spies team?

9. Why do you believe MI6 has chosen to continue to keep knowledge of the City Spies’ existence and work a secret? How does Rio’s choice to reveal what the team does to Beatriz Santos potentially jeopardize this? Do you see any ways this could inadvertently put them in a position of danger? Are you surprised by MI6’s ultimate reaction to Rio’s actions regarding Beatriz?

10. While discussing Beatriz Santos during their visit to the Brazilian embassy, and focusing on how she’s recovering from the attempted attack on her in Venice, Beatriz’s advisor, Dr. Ferreira, tells Monty, “‘She’s put on a brave face and tried to act like it was nothing, but I know that it’s shaken her. . . . I encouraged her not to make this trip, but as you can tell, my advice went unheeded.’” (Chapter eighteen) What does learning that Beatriz is struggling with what happened indicate? What can be gleaned from the knowledge that she is unwilling to allow her fears to get in the way of her mission?

11. In his most recent MI6 performance review, Mother is described as “meticulous” by Tru. “Cool” and “calm” were two other descriptions given about him. (Chapter nineteen) Thinking about what happens to him in Mission Manhattan and what he’s endured and experienced in earlier City Spies books, how would you describe Mother? What are the greatest trials you feel he has faced? How has he handled those challenges? Are there ways in which his experience during this mission might change him?

12. Readers learn, “As one of the most recognizable faces in the environmental movement, Beatriz was a polarizing figure. For those who supported her rainforest campaign, she was a hero, their Queen Bea. But to people who thought she was an extremist, Beatriz was a spoiled brat repeating simplistic views about a world that was more complicated than she understood.” (Chapter nineteen) As Beatriz attempts to further explain the complicated position of being famous and people wanting her to act her age, Rio witnesses this challenge she faces firsthand. Considering Beatriz’s explanation and what you observe in Mission Manhattan, do you see her position of celebrity as one that you’d want for yourself? What do you see as the greatest benefits and challenges to this level of fame?

13. Given what you learn from the novel about the main branch of the New York Public Library, what’s your favorite feature of the library? If you had a chance to visit the facility, what would you want to visit first and why?

14 Brooklyn and the team visit her former foster mother to hide out as they are being sought by the authorities. There, Mrs. G tells Brooklyn, “‘Like I said, Sara, some things never change. . . . You’ve always been on the edge of trouble.’” (Chapter thirty-five) In your opinion, is this a fair assessment of Brooklyn? Why or why not?

15. For Brooklyn, what are some ways in which the return to her former home of New York City for the team’s final leg of the mission might feel complicated? How does her local knowledge ultimately help them stay safe and achieve their goals?

16. Trust is a critical component in the City Spies family. How does Robert’s choice to finally tell his new siblings the truth about his actions regarding Clementine help them better understand him and change the way they perceive him? From your perspective, do you think he is treated fairly? Explain your position.

17. Considering the conclusion of Mission Manhattan and what is learned about Clementine, what do you predict will happen in the next installment of City Spies?

Extension Activities

Venice—For part of the mission, the City Spies go undercover in Venice, Italy, a magical and unique city beloved by people everywhere. First, using library and internet resources, have students begin to discover what makes Venice so special.

According to interest, have students select one of the following aspects of Venice to research:

o Transportation options

o Unique topography/islands/canals/bridges

o Environmental challenges to the city

o Venetian masks

o History of government

o Artisan creations (glass and lace)

o Famous Venetians

o The Doge’s Palace

o St. Mark’s Square

Allow students to work with one another and share their findings in a manner of choice.

Climate Protests—During their time in Venice, the City Spies go undercover at a climate change rally. Read the following article from Reuters to learn more about a recent climate protest in Venice:

After a discussion, have students investigate other examples and types of climate protest activities that have transpired elsewhere as forms of statement activism. Allow students to discuss or debate their favorite findings and debate the need and appropriateness of such forms of protest.

Climate Activists—In Mission Manhattan, much of the City Spies’ mission is to protect Beatriz Santos, a young climate activist from Brazil, inspired by the work of environmental activist Greta Thunberg. Using a variety of research resources, dig deeply to learn more about Thunberg and other young people doing work to bring awareness to climate change and other global concerns. Be sure to consider what their work entails and what sort of outcomes have transpired from their efforts.

Embassy Row—As the mission takes the City Spies to Washington DC and into some of the embassies found there, they find themselves quickly learning about the role embassies have throughout the world, as well as in the United States. Have students learn more to consider the following:

o What are the main functions of embassies?

o What’s the difference between an embassy and a consulate?

o Does the home country or the embassy’s country own the land on which the embassy sits?

o In the United States, what are some of the unique features of the embassies along embassy row?

Ask students to dig further into the topic by watching the following video by the National Museum of American Diplomacy:

After conducting individual research and watching the video, offer an opportunity for a group discussion, making connections to what readers learned from Mission Manhattan and these additional resources.

New York Public Library—During their time in New York, part of their mission takes the City Spies to the New York Public Library. While NYPL is an extensive public library system with ninety-two branches, the most famous (and the location of the mission) is the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, commonly known as the main branch, on Fifth Avenue and Forty-Second Street in Midtown Manhattan. To begin, use the NYPL’s website,, to learn more about this New York City treasure. Next, have students explore this article in Time Magazine to discover the history and wonder of the Rose Reading Room:, and be sure to learn a few more unusual facts about the library here:

After they read and investigate, have readers share their most interesting discoveries about NYPL with the group.

United Nations—As the City Spies work on their case, they become more intimately knowledgeable of the role the UN has on the world. Have readers begin by watching this short video by CBS on the United Nations:

Next, ask students to research further to understand the following:

o What is the United Nations?

o What was the rationale for developing it?

o Where and when was it established?

o How many countries are active participants in the work of the UN and how many languages are designated as official?

o What other interesting facts can you find about the UN?

After they complete their research, have students share their new knowledge with their peers.

This guide was created by Dr. Rose Brock. Rose is an associate professor in the Library Science Department in the College of Education at Sam Houston State University and holds a Ph.D. in Library Science, specializing in children’s and young adult literature.

This guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.

About The Author

Elena Seibert Photography

James Ponti is the New York Times bestselling author of four middle grade book series: The Sherlock Society following a group of young detectives; City Spies, about an unlikely squad of five kids from around the world who form an elite MI6 Spy Team; the Edgar Award–winning Framed! series, about a pair of tweens who solve mysteries in Washington, DC; and the Dead City trilogy, about a secret society that polices the undead living beneath Manhattan. His books have appeared on more than fifteen different state award lists, and he is the founder of a writers group known as the Renegades of Middle Grade. James is also an Emmy–nominated television writer and producer who has worked for many networks including Nickelodeon, Disney Channel, PBS, History, and Spike TV, as well as NBC Sports. He lives with his family in Orlando, Florida. Find out more at

Product Details

  • Publisher: Aladdin (January 7, 2025)
  • Length: 448 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781665932486
  • Grades: 3 - 7
  • Ages: 8 - 12

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