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 HergÃ©, 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
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*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