Lighthearted cleverness invites readers to play along.

HOW I BECAME A SPY

A MYSTERY OF WWII LONDON

A World War II caper features three 13-year-olds learning ciphers amid the bombs.

Bertie, a white boy in 1944 London, is excited to be a new civil defense volunteer. With the help of his rescue dog, Little Roo, he carries messages for London’s wardens. In the middle of an air raid, Bertie finds—and loses—a young woman, who vanishes, leaving only a ciphered notebook. Bertie enlists two friends his own age to decipher the notebook: his Jewish best friend and a white American girl who’s also seeking the missing young woman. The messages introduce them to a frightening story of traitors and double crosses; it’s a good thing their code-breaking skills are up to the task! With many allusions to Sherlock Holmes and in chapters headed with excerpts from the Special Operations Executive’s wartime spy training, the three children put their minds to cracking the ciphers and rescuing the missing woman. Little Roo helps as well, sniffing out people who need rescuing. Though the characters’ voices and actions sometimes stretch the bounds of credulity, the puzzle solving is deftly handled. Clear instructions for deciphering messages, complete with an illustrated decoder ring, teach readers to solve the mystery along with our heroes—albeit without the help of Little Roo. Hopkinson includes some historical figures, including a Nigerian immigrant who effectively diversifies a typically whitewashed setting.

Lighthearted cleverness invites readers to play along. (footnotes, historical notes, Q-and-A) (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-55706-4

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 21, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

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A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit...

NUMBER THE STARS

The author of the Anastasia books as well as more serious fiction (Rabble Starkey, 1987) offers her first historical fiction—a story about the escape of the Jews from Denmark in 1943.

Five years younger than Lisa in Carol Matas' Lisa's War (1989), Annemarie Johansen has, at 10, known three years of Nazi occupation. Though ever cautious and fearful of the ubiquitous soldiers, she is largely unaware of the extent of the danger around her; the Resistance kept even its participants safer by telling them as little as possible, and Annemarie has never been told that her older sister Lise died in its service. When the Germans plan to round up the Jews, the Johansens take in Annemarie's friend, Ellen Rosen, and pretend she is their daughter; later, they travel to Uncle Hendrik's house on the coast, where the Rosens and other Jews are transported by fishing boat to Sweden. Apart from Lise's offstage death, there is little violence here; like Annemarie, the reader is protected from the full implications of events—but will be caught up in the suspense and menace of several encounters with soldiers and in Annemarie's courageous run as courier on the night of the escape. The book concludes with the Jews' return, after the war, to homes well kept for them by their neighbors.

A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit of riding alone in Copenhagen, but for their Jews. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: April 1, 1989

ISBN: 0547577095

Page Count: 156

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1989

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Japanese-American Aki and her family operate an asparagus farm in Westminster, Calif., until they are summarily uprooted and...

SYLVIA & AKI

Two third-grade girls in California suffer the dehumanizing effects of racial segregation after the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor in 1942 in this moving story based on true events in the lives of Sylvia Mendez and Aki Munemitsu.

Japanese-American Aki and her family operate an asparagus farm in Westminster, Calif., until they are summarily uprooted and dispatched to an internment camp in Poston, Ariz., for the duration of World War II. As Aki endures the humiliation and deprivation of the hot, cramped barracks, she wonders if there’s “something wrong with being Japanese.” Sylvia’s Mexican-American family leases the Munemitsu farm. She expects to attend the local school but faces disappointment when authorities assign her to a separate, second-rate school for Mexican kids. In response, Sylvia’s father brings a legal action against the school district arguing against segregation in what eventually becomes a successful landmark case. Their lives intersect after Sylvia finds Aki’s doll, meets her in Poston and sends her letters. Working with material from interviews, Conkling alternates between Aki and Sylvia’s stories, telling them in the third person from the war’s start in 1942 through its end in 1945, with an epilogue updating Sylvia’s story to 1955.

Pub Date: July 12, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-58246-337-7

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Tricycle

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2011

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