Description from GoodReads:
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.
Quick Thoughts on the book:
At the end of How I Became a Spy, Hopkinson includes a “question & answer” section. She shares her inspiration as being her love for “mysteries, spy stories, history, and anything to do with London”. Hopkinson combines all of her loves into an engaging, fast-paced novel for young readers.
Blending references from Sherlock Holmes and quotes from the Special Operations Executive (SOE) Manual (a “British Organization that recruited ordinary men and women to conduct espionage”), Hopkinson places readers into World War II London in 1944. Bertie Bradshaw is a Civil Defense Volunteer and during an air raid discovers unconscious young woman. When he returns with help, a short time later, the young woman is gone. With the discovery of a special notebook, the assistance of Eleanor, an American, and his dog Little Roo, Bertie investigates the disappearance of the young woman, deciphers several coded messages, and stops a double agent.
How I Became a Spy takes the reader on an adventure into a world of secrets and mysteries. Though at times, the adult reader in me wondered how realistic it would be for two 13 year olds to actually get caught up in the world of espionage, my inner 11 year old said to ignore it and just enjoy the journey, which was good advice. I suspect that the book will appeal to a wide range of readers. The short chapters and the action keeps the story moving and will appeal to readers who like fast-paced writing. Others will enjoy the inclusion of ciphers and the opportunity to test out their own decoding skills.
One of my favorite aspects of the book is the inclusion of Spy Practice with actual ciphers. The first cipher is a Simple Substitution Cipher.
Additional ciphers include:
Caesar (Shift) Cipher
Mixed Alphabet Cipher
The answers to the ciphers can be found at the end of the book with some additional back matter including an author’s note, roster of terms, events & historical figures, notes, and a short question and answer.
To read an excerpt of the book, click here.
Check out the interview with author, Deborah Hopkinson on Read & Shine here. Hopkinson talks some about her writing and research process.
Look for How I Became a Spy at your local indie bookstore or community library.
About the author: DEBORAH HOPKINSON has written more than 40 books for young readers. She is the author of the middle-grade novels The Great Trouble: A Mystery of London, the Blue Death, and a Boy Called Eel; A Bandit’s Tale: The Muddled Misadventures of a Pickpocket; and Into the Firestorm: A Novel of San Francisco, 1906. Her picture books include Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt; Sky Boys: How They Built the Empire State Building, an ALA-ALSC Notable Children’s Book and a Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Book; Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek, an ALA-ALSC Notable Children’s Book and a Junior Library Guild Selection; A Boy Called Dickens; and the ALA Notable Book Apples to Oregon. Visit her at DeborahHopkinson.com and follow her at @deborahopkinson