Thursday, February 14, 2019

YA ARC Review: How I Became a Spy by Deborah Hopkinson

How I Became a Spy 
Subtitle: A Mystery of WWII London
Author: Deborah Hopkinson
Publication: Knopf Books for Young Readers (February 12, 2019)

Description: Bertie Bradshaw never set out to become a spy. He never imagined traipsing around war-torn London, solving ciphers, practicing surveillance, and searching for a traitor to the Allied forces. He certainly never expected that a strong-willed American girl named Eleanor would play Watson to his Holmes (or Holmes to his Watson, depending on who you ask).

But when a young woman goes missing, leaving behind a coded notebook, Bertie is determined to solve the mystery. With the help of Eleanor and his friend David, a Jewish refugee--and, of course, his trusty pup, Little Roo--Bertie must decipher the notebook in time to stop a double agent from spilling the biggest secret of all to the Nazis.

From the author of The Great Trouble, this suspenseful WWII adventure reminds us that times of war call for bravery, brains and teamwork from even the most unlikely heroes.

My Thoughts: This middle grade historical mystery stars Bertie Bradshaw, Eleanor Shea, and David Goodman. These thirteen-year-olds find themselves solving ciphers to find a German double agent in London before the specifics of D-Day can be discovered and sent to Germany.

Bertie's father is a policeman. Bertie is working as an air-raid messenger. One evening when the sirens go off, Bertie grabs his dog Little Roo and heads out to the air-raid shelter. He directs everyone he sees to the nearest shelter including American Eleanor Shea. He literally bumps into her. When she continues on her way, Bertie finds a small red notebook. Then Little Roo leads him to an alley and an unconscious young woman.

When Bertie gets back to his base and sends help, the young woman is gone. Where she went and who she was is a mystery for him to solve. The red notebook contains still another mystery. It tells of a young woman who is being trained to infiltrate German-held lands and assist the Resistance. It talks about her training. However, the last part of the book is ciphered. Bertie calls on his friend Jewish-immigrant David who is a devoted fan of Sherlock Holmes and a good puzzle solver.

The boys also reconnect with Eleanor who tells them that the red notebook was written by her French tutor Violette. Violette asked Eleanor to take care of it and share it with her father, who works for the OSS, if something should happen to her.

The kids work together to solve the various ciphers and then use their information to try to track a traitor. While the three main characters are fictitious actual historical figures do make brief appearances in the story. Both General Dwight D. "Ike" Eisenhower and his dog Telek have a role as does Leo Marks who worked with the Special Operations Executive (SOE) who sent civilians to occupied territory and who wrote a book after the war.

Each chapter begins with a quote from the SOE Training Manual or other quotation and each section has a different cipher for the reader to solve (with solutions in the back of the book). There are notes at the end citing the chapter quotations.

This was a nice mystery about a time period that interests many students. 

Favorite Quote:
"You may always feel regret over what happened that night, Bertie. But that doesn't mean you can't move on with your life. You were brave tonight," said Warden Ita. "But it takes a different kind of bravery to the ones we love, ask forgiveness, and move on. Sometimes all we can do is take one step at a time."
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

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