Kirkus Reviews QR Code
VIRGINIA WAS A SPY by Catherine Urdahl


by Catherine Urdahl ; illustrated by Gary Kelley

Pub Date: Aug. 18th, 2020
ISBN: 978-1-56846-348-3
Publisher: Creative Editions/Creative Company

The only woman awarded the U.S. Distinguished Service Cross during World War II, Virginia Hall (1906-1982) was always “most original.”

Growing up in Baltimore, Virginia “was different from most girls of her time,” hunting, fishing, and collecting wild animals. Virginia’s “hunger to explore” led her to work for the U.S. Foreign Service in Turkey, where she shattered her left foot in a hunting accident, resulting in amputation below her knee. Undaunted, Virginia learned to walk with a wooden prosthesis, moved to Paris, and witnessed the German invasion and occupation of France. Volunteering as an ambulance driver until Paris surrendered, Virginia then became the first female undercover agent for the British, gathering information and assisting British pilots. Fleeing France, Virginia hiked over the snow-covered Pyrenees into Spain but eventually returned to France as an American spy disguised as a French milkmaid, transmitting radio messages about German troops and leading a French resistance group until the war ended. Repetition of the refrain, “Virginia was Virginia,” punctuates the factual text, introducing each amazing stage of her life. The book opens with a photo of Virginia’s passport, and Kelley’s realistic illustrations, appropriately rendered in somber hues, stark outlines, and arresting angles, highlight dramatic episodes. Suspenseful close-ups of Virginia spying on German soldiers in the French countryside add to the wartime atmosphere. (This book was reviewed digitally with 12-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 75% of actual size.)

A fascinating introduction to a remarkable life.

(author's note) (Picture book/biography. 6-10)