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City of Spies Paperback – April 27, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 5–9—This complex, well-executed work combines a modern, emotional narrative with a European comic style. In 1942, Evelyn, a neglected rich girl, spends her time drawing the comic-book adventures of Zirconium Man and Scooter, who are idealized superhero versions of her father and herself. When her absentee father sends her to live with an upper-crust bohemian aunt, the transition is initially difficult. However, after finding herself in New York City's German district, Evelyn soon pairs up with Tony, who lives in her building, and the two decide to rid the city of the Nazi spies they imagine are all around them. Following a false lead causes the lives of the kids, the aunt, and a down-on-his-luck police officer to intersect. When the children bump, quite literally, into an actual Nazi spy ring, love, adventure, and redemption all arise in course. The artwork is highly reminiscent of Hergé, creator of the "Tintin" series, and is a perfect complement to both the period and feel of the story. Another nice touch is that the artwork changes to a more traditional American style when depicting Evelyn's own comic fantasies. The challenge with City of Spies will be finding the right audience. While the illustrations evoke comics that are traditionally for younger readers, the many personal dilemmas at work in the narrative will be appreciated by older students. But, if the right reader can be found, this should be a very enjoyable reading experience.—Douglas P. Davey, Halton Hills Public Library, Ontario, Canada
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* With her mother gone and a father who has better things to do than be bothered raising a daughter, Evelyn is sent to live with her unconventional Aunt Lia in the bohemian art world of 1942 New York City. Lia isn’t shaping up to be much of a caretaker, but Evelyn spends much of her time in the company of imaginary superheroes, fouling up the plans of Nazi spies. Before long she finds an unlikely friend in the building superintendent’s son, Tony. Together, they negotiate the complexities of their different social strata and, always sniffing around for trouble, stumble upon an actual Nazi plot. With stupefying precision, Dizin’s art channels Hergé’s Tintin in tone, palette, and with the remarkable expressiveness of the clean, flexible figures. He also echoes the Belgian master’s sense of fun and action, even as Kim and Klavan put a sophisticated spin on classic boys’ adventure story elements and handle issues of friendship, economic class, and abandonment. And with villains and danger that just border on the genuinely scary, the tale is filled not only with a thrilling sense of excitement but also with a child’s longing for a grown-up to believe in. Grades 4-7. --Jesse Karp

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 - 14 years
  • Grade Level: 5 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 310L (What's this?)
  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: First Second; 1 edition (April 27, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596432624
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596432628
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 0.4 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #287,357 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Cynthia Hudson on May 13, 2010
Format: Paperback
During the early days the U.S. was involved in Word War II, Americans became obsessed with the thought that spies were among them, secreting away information that would aid the enemy and defeat the Allies. In New York, people were suspicious of Germans in general, and many thought it was their patriotic duty to keep an eye on German citizens.

This is the setting for City of Spies, a new graphic novel by Susan Kim and Laurance Klavan, with artwork by Pascal Dizin. Evelyn has arrived to spend the summer with her Aunt Lia in New York while her father spends time with his new wife. An only child, Evelyn has known a series of stepmothers since her own mother died years before. To help pass the time, she draws action adventures for the superhero she creates, Zirconium Man, and she is his sidekick, Scooter.

Aunt Lia's artistic lifestyle doesn't accommodate Evelyn very well, but she doesn't mind as much after she meets the building superintendent's son, Tony. Together, they decide to have an adventure and catch a spy. They soon discover that just because someone has a German background, it doesn't mean he's stealing secrets and working with the enemy. When they stumble on a real plot, they decide to follow it through and foil the bad guys themselves.

City of Spies does a great job of exploring the imagined and real dangers of the early 1940s while focusing on issues such as friendship, family relationships, and loneliness for both children and adults. It also brings to life two fantasies common among children: being a superhero and catching a spy. As in all good graphic novels, much of the plot and action are carried through by the artwork, and Dizin's drawings are the perfect accompaniment to Kim and Klavan's words. A mother-daughter book club with girls aged 13 and up would be able to discuss the historic era and how graphic novels in general differ from reading a regular novel.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Nicola Mansfield on April 27, 2010
Format: Paperback
Reason for Reading: The old-style drawings, and superhero story set in WWII intrigued me.

Summary: It is 1942, Evelyn's mother has died, her father is a busy man with better things to do than look after a child, so she now lives with her rich Bohemian partying artist aunt who hasn't a clue about children. Evelyn spends her spare time drawing comics about Zirconium Man and his sidekick Scooter who fight against Nazis and a black ooze-like monster. But in real life Evelyn meets the building janitor's son Tony and they find themselves on the track of real liveNazi spies in their own neighbourhood.

Comment: Wonderful story that brings back the olden days of comics. Starting with the art, one thing I really appreciated is that when Evelyn is drawing her comic it is presented in the old-style where you can see the colour is made up of little dots and the type is all caps. Then when the switch is made to the present story we've got a Tin-Tin style of art with modern colour techniques and a normal lowercase type with caps where they should be. These easily help the reader know whether they are reading the main story or Evelyn's comic book and the device is just a lot of fun.

Growing up reading old Superman comics I found at garage sales I really had fun with Evelyn's comic story and when Zirconium Man and Scooter were surrounded be reporters I'll eat my hat if I didn't see Clark Kent and Jimmy Olsen in a few panes. Lots of humour along with olden but golden Superhero cheese.

The main story is full of adventure and humour as the daring children (age 10) set off following clues to what they are sure is a Nazi spy ring. Only they have a few false alarms causing the police and grown-ups not to believe them.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jewish Book World Magazine on December 27, 2010
Format: Paperback
City of Spies is reminiscent of old-time comics, all the way to the "real spy gadgets" offered in the back of the book. The book is set in 1942 New York and is fashioned as if it was written in that era. Heroes are not given the outlandish superpowers of a modern character. The story centers on Scooter, aka Evelyn Spiegelman. She has been sent to Manhattan to live with her single beatnik Aunt Lia while her father gets remarried again. Evelyn has created an imaginary world in her own comic series in which her father is the super hero and Scooter, her father's nickname for her, is the trusted side kick. However, Evelyn runs into her own adventures and meets a sidekick of her own, the superintendent's son, Tony. Together they uncover a Nazi spy ring, help Aunt Lia face personal challenges, and even allow Evelyn a glimpse into her Jewish heritage of which she is uneducated. The artwork is bright and inviting, echoing the appealing style of Herge's Tintin series. Dizin has recreated a world of detailed comics and animated action that perfectly complement the written text. This comic book is also well suited to adults who wish to revisit their childhood comic book experiences. For ages 9-15. Drora Arussy
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Lady Wimsey on May 5, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book was so popular in my house with my kids (late elementary and middle school) that I had to wait 5 days to read it. This book has been read/reread daily since we bought it last week. Evelyn is a young German-American Jew spending the summer with her aunt in NYC. Lonely, imaginative, and creative, she creates a comic (yes a comic within a comic) of two super heroes, while making friends with a boy in the apartment building. The two end up having an adventure involving Nazi spies that is captivating and engaging to middle readers. The readers in this house are waiting for a sequel!
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