How I Became a Spy
272p. Knopf. Feb. 2019. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780399557064.
Gr 4–6—This middle grade mystery novel starts with a bang and sends readers on a breakneck journey through World War II London. Bertie Bradshaw is a civil defense volunteer, so he is accustomed to the bombings and fires that have become commonplace in the city. His faithful companion is Little Roo, a small black spaniel that was given to Bertie when her original owner, a librarian, evacuated London for somewhere safer. Bertie's job is to bring others to safety, helping them find the closest bomb shelters and alerting the authorities about fires or other dangers. Bertie's brother, Will, was badly injured, so Will and his mother are living in Surrey until he recovers. One night out on patrol, Bertie runs into an American girl with his bike and ends up with a journal from a young woman, Violette, who has become a spy. It turns out the American girl knows her and wants the journal back. Bertie, however, starts reading the journal and finds it fascinating. The journal describes Violette's training as a spy and includes some codes, which readers have to try to decrypt. This book has some excellent historical information about World War II that focuses on the experiences of Londoners, as well as some commentary on post-traumatic stress. The mystery and code aspect will draw in readers.
VERDICT A strong choice for middle grade collections, especially those in need of wartime historical fiction.

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