The Secret Life of Spies

Quarto/Wide Eyed Editions. Aug. 2020. 48p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780711247567.
Gr 2-6–Author Noble and illustrator Mostov describe 20 real-life spies in this illustrated collective biography for older elementary and middle grade readers. The text offers historical context and relevant biographical information, allowing Noble and Mostov to bring these individuals to life. Noble does not glamorize a life of espionage; he allows the facts to speak for themselves. Noble points out that some of the individuals featured in the book were “caught, imprisoned, and even killed for their actions.” He adds, “These spies, called double agents, often operate undetected for years but, if caught, are labeled as traitors.” The text provides a short vignette explaining the spy’s work with their picture, birth date, death date (if applicable), and their country of birth. Historically, some of the best spies were women because society did not expect them to get involved in military intelligence operations. Noble’s decision to include these women can be viewed as a powerful way to correct their exclusion from history. Boxes are used to spotlight the illustrations and provide continuity. While the book’s organization is not chronological or alphabetical, the stories flow evenly and represent a wide range of time periods and countries.
VERDICT Based on its intended audience and content, this is a well-executed collection. Recommended.

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