Middle Grade Monday: Island of Spies by Sheila Turnage
A simultaneously slightly absurd and frightenly real story of WWII, for kids 8 and up.
Title: Island of Spies
Author: Sheila Turnage
Publication Info: Dial Books, 2022. 384 pages.
Source: Library digital resources.
Twelve-year-old Stick Lawson lives on Hatteras Island, North Carolina, where life moves steady as the tides, and mysteries abound as long as you look really hard for them. Stick and her friends Rain and Neb are good at looking hard. They call themselves the Dime Novel Kids. And the only thing Stick wants more than a paying case for them to solve is the respect that comes with it. But on Hatteras, the tides are changing. World War II looms, curious newcomers have appeared on the small island, and in the waters off its shores, a wartime menace lurks that will upend Stick's life and those of everyone she loves. The Dimes are about to face more mysteries than they ever could have wished for, and risk more than they ever could have imagined.
I loved this! The three friends are an unlikely trio of investigators, perhaps held together largely by the strong-willed Stick who wants to be a scientist and is in fact working hard at being one all the time, even in the face of the derision of those who don't believe a woman can do that.
What starts as something that feels like children's games soon develops into a serious case, and the children are playing with some very dangerous things indeed. What saves them is that they don't see it as play--these kids are serious in their investigations, if somewhat hampered by curfews and work assigned as punishment when they are caught eavesdropping or sneaking out.
To me, the balance of suspense, real danger, and humor, not to mention happy resolutions, makes this a perfect middle grade book. We aren't spared the realities of war, but Turnage doesn't grind our faces in them, either. Along the way, I learned a thing or two--like how many ships were sunk by U-boats off the US coast, or how many spies really did land from them. Call that a bonus.
Perfect for kids from 8 or 9 up, and for adults who like a little historical fiction that's a lot of fun and leaves you with a good feeling. Sheila Turnage is the author of Three Times Lucky and its sequels, so you know she can write.
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