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City of Spies Paperback – Bargain Price, April 27, 2010
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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
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
*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
Top customer reviews
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. One of these episodes is leaving me on the fence as to what age group I'd recommend the book for. The book is perfectly safe reading with only a tiny bit of innuendo that could be read by ages 10 and up assuming they have some idea as to WWII and the Nazis but there is one scene where a "spy" ends up being a man cheating on his wife and they show a few frames of a matronly-looking woman in bra and slip on a bed with man in a vest and boxers. There is also an artist sketching scene showing the back of a nude model and a side view which shows the slightest little bre*st bump. Parents should be aware of this to decide on the suitability for their own children. Older teens are not going to be terribly interested in the 10yo protagonists.
Other than the main spy story plot, there is also a back story of the aunt who develops from being an irresponsible child caretaker with a somewhat dubious past to someone who finds a wholesome new romance and learns that she really is up to the challenge of her niece's well-being.
A fun book, with quite a few story layers, humour and bold, colourful art. Recommended.