Thursday, March 23, 2017

Spy on History: Mary Bowser and the Civil War Spy Ring by Enigma Alberti and Tony Cliff

This dramatic story, based on true characters and events, grabs the reader immediately and promises great things for a new series.

This is the story of Mary Bowser, ostensibly an illiterate servant in the house of Jefferson Davis, in reality a clever and determined spy. She braved incredible danger, living every moment in suspense, to pass information to the Union forces. This book takes the few facts known about her life and expands them into a fast-paced spy story with graphics, historical context, and a pulse-pounding conclusion.

The book includes biographical information about the characters of the story, an historical note, and a bibliography. There is also an answer key to the multiple mysteries included throughout the text.

I reviewed this as an ARC; it's apparently going to include multiple code-breaking pieces, similar to Candlewick's -ology books, as well as graphics in color.

This book contains some things I have been looking for and some I have not. I'm thrilled to see more historical fiction and narrative nonfiction (this book is a crossover of both) that features diverse characters, the people often passed over in major historical narratives. As a librarian, I'm a little nervous about books that include Things though. How long will they last? Will we have to count them every time they come back?

I postponed this review until I could borrow a copy of the finished book from another library. The finished copy has more art, both in color and black and white. The only loose pieces are in an envelope at the beginning of the book. They involve a couple code-breaking items and a little pamphlet. The story is still good without them and I wouldn't worry too much about them disappearing.

Verdict: Despite my reservations, I foresee this series being very popular and it definitely fills a niche. Hand it to fans of I Survived, Magic Tree House, and the -ology books and watch kids become immersed in history.

ISBN: 9780761187394; Published February 2017 by Workman; ARC provided by publisher at BEA; Final copy borrowed from another library in my consortium

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