Red Menace

Carolrhoda. Feb. 2020. 224p. $17.99. ISBN 9781541557499.
Gr 5-7–Lois Ruby’s latest novel takes the reader back to a contentious period in American history and politics from a kid’s point of view. It is 1953 and 13-year-old Marty Rafner is the only child of two college professors loosely linked to Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. The Rosenbergs, of course, have been tried and found guilty of spying for the Russians and will be executed in June 1953. The whole novel serves as a countdown for the last two months of the Rosenbergs’ life, while Marty’s own family is thrown into turmoil due to his mother’s stubborn refusal to sign an oath of allegiance at the local college where she and Marty’s dad both teach. Intriguing side characters include the FBI agents staked out across the street and a quiet neighbor suffering from PTSD after being discharged from the Marines during the Korean War. Readers will feel the frustration of the accused in the 1950s when a hearing is held to determine if Marty’s mother is a communist sympathizer. Marty has a sharp, snarky voice and an aversion to adult drama that will appeal to middle grade readers, and the G-men certainly provide some amusing tension to the story. However, students may need a quick lesson on the Rosenbergs and why they were important enough to enrage and divide the entire United States during the Cold War.
VERDICT A sound addition to any library seeking middle grade historical fiction.

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