Monday, June 01, 2009

The Spy Who Came in From the Sea

The Spy Who Came in From the Sea, by Peggy Nolan

(Pineapple Press, 1999), pb., 129 pp.

Ages 8+

This book was a disappointment. It is based on a great idea but fails to deliver in several ways.

First, the idea and setting of the book is great. I did not previously know that during World War II German spies had been dropped off by U-boats on American beaches in New York and Florida for sabotage missions (you can see an official description of this story at the FBI site). This book is built around the landing of one of the spies in Florida. The story is fictional but incorporates some of the facts of the real case. In the story a boy happens to see the spy come ashore and tries to alert authorities. However, due to his tendency to exaggerate no one believes him, except two friends. He and these friends then do their sleuthing alone, risking danger and eventually expose the spy and avert real danger. This is great stuff for story-telling and fun history to learn about.

However, as I noted above, the book itself was disappointing. The writing is only fair. With this sort of material I hoped for a powerhouse! Instead this book limps along. But it is the overall values of the story that made it not a fit for us. Since we found the book in the Veritas Press catalogue we had certain expectations of the book. However, my boys readily picked up that this book did not represent “us” in ways that other books that we have read do. In general this book had the feel of a typical kids’ book one might find today. The book was filled with language we do not approve of- not outright profanity, but "gosh," "darn,' and words like that. The mother is quite flighty and there is a lack of strong adult characters. The main character is a real braggart and while this is eventually shown to be negative, it was more than we would want. Then the dating scene is more prominent in this book than in our family. The 14-year-old main character is pursuing girl friends, dances, and his first kiss. He is proud to have reserved his first kiss for someone special. That is alien to my boys for whom dating is a non-issue, kissing is something married people do, etc. Now, those reading this review may think we are the weird ones, and that is fine. My aim is for you to know where this book is coming from.

There are many better books on the World War II era and we would not particularly recommend this one.



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