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By Deborah Hopkinson ~ A Mystery of WWII London

How I Became A Spy coverBertie 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.

This suspenseful WWII adventure reminds us that times of war call for bravery, brains and teamwork from even the most unlikely heroes. [Cover Synopsis]

Danger and daring wrapped in a page-turning mystery

I chanced upon this book while browsing in a local indie bookstore. Everything about it intrigued me and I bought it on the spot.

Bertie Bradshaw volunteered as an air-raid messenger to redeem himself for a past mistake and stumbles onto a mystery of national importance. Hopkinson weaves historical facts through a masterfully plotted mystery, bringing the characters, time, and place to life.

Five things that kept me turning the pages:

  • The first lines: “I wasn’t thinking about becoming a spy that night. I was trying to be brave, do a good job, and stay out of trouble. It wasn’t going well.”
  • The dog: Little Roo, the black spaniel, is a service dog who’s skill is finding people trapped in bombed out buildings. However, Roo’s bond with Bertie runs much deeper and plays an important role in solving the mystery.
  • The history: Real-life facts, such as the Special Operations Executive (SOE) Manual quotes, food rationing, air-raid sirens, General Eisenhower and his dog, bring WWII London—and all that happened there—to life.
  • The cryptography: Ciphers used in espionage during WWII are realistically woven throughout the story. We see how they’re used and learn how they work as our characters break them.
  • The friendships: Bertie, Eleanor, and David, a Jewish refugee, form a kindred bond as they struggle to crack the ciphers in the mysterious notebook, in the race to save the nation, and world, in its darkest hour.

Praise for “HOW I BECAME A SPY”

“This middle grade mystery novel starts with a bang and sends readers on a breakneck journey through World War II London.” —School Library Journal

“Hopkinson has written a cleverly plotted, page-turning mystery that vividly evokes wartime Britain… Fans of puzzles, mysteries, and historical fiction will be delighted by Hopkinson’s latest.” —Booklist 

“Red herrings, a poignant Bradshaw family backstory, ciphers to decode, a subplot regarding a young Jewish refugee friend of Bertie’s, cameos by real-life historical figures (General Eisenhower and his dog; cipher expert Leo Marks)—there’s certainly no shortage of entry points for young readers, and never a dull moment.” —The Horn Book