SPIES, LIES, AND DISGUISE
The Daring Tricks and Deeds that Won World War II
By: Jennifer Swanson
Illustrated by: Kevin O’Malley
Published: November 26, 2019
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Jennifer Swanson begins her book with a dedication to the US Naval Academy where she earned her BS degree. She has a great respect for our military and knows the sacrifices made by many. As a middle school science teacher, Swanson gets kids. She knows how to write (and teach) so kids will listen and be interested. Her introduction explaining briefly about the history of WWII and the rise…and fall…of Hitler will make kids want to learn more.
Combine Swanson’s research with O’Malley’s witty cartoons and illustrations and this is a book that kids will want to keep reading and learning. The first chapter grabbed my attention by talking about famous spies. I already knew about the famous chef, Julia Child’s creation of a shark repellent for pilots who had to abandon their planes. But, I didn’t know about Morris “Moe” Berg, who after retiring from the MLB, became a secret agent spying on the Germans, specifically the German physicist Dr. Werner Heisenberg who was attempting to create an atomic bomb. The famous dancer, Josephine Baker was part of the resistance and hid Jews in her home as well as passed messages to informants on her sheet music.
I think the most fascinating story for me was reading about the Night Witches, a group of women trained as pilots in Stalin’s Russia. Their planes were made of wood and canvas and could only fly at night where their quiet approach could surprise the Germans. These women flew over 24,000 missions and dropped more than 23,000 tons of bombs on the Germans with great risk of death. Their story is quite amazing.
The book also includes actual photographs from the war which kids will learn from as well. Especially, noticing the lack of equipment and protection these soldiers had to protect themselves compared to our military today. Throughout the book, there are “Covert Clues” that give a bit more insight into the story which kids will appreciate.
It never fails, every WWII book I read teaches me something new and even children’s books can do that. This is a great book for kids who are history buffs and for families to read together and learn about this important time in the history of our World. For homeschooling families with a history or WWII unit, this is an excellent book for middle-grade readers.