From School Library Journal
Gr 5-8–Since the Revolutionary War, espionage has created fascinating scenarios involving some quite unlikely participants. From Benedict Arnold and Mata Hari to the lesser-known Elizabeth Van Lew and Juan Pujol, Janeczko delves into their stories with delicious detail, drawing readers into a world of intrigue and danger. Did you ever wonder why invisible ink works? How a code breaker deciphers a message? Or whether dentistry could affect a secret agent's success? The answers to these questions and more can be found here. Each chapter covers a historical era and chronicles the maturation of spying, while primary-source photographs are interspersed throughout, lending an authentic feel to each section. A complete bibliography and source notes appear at the end. Janeczko manages to stay true to history while still keeping a lively tone.Kelly McGorray, Glenbard South High School, Glen Ellyn, IL
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Best known for his award-winning poetry titles, Janeczko has a long-held fascination with the shadowy world of espionage, which he explored in Top Secret: A Handbook of Codes, Ciphers, and Secret Writing (2004). Here he revisits cryptology basics and other intelligence-gathering techniques, but his main focus is on the spies themselves, and in a fascinating series of profiles, he presents notorious spooks, from the Revolutionary War to the cold war, closing with Soviet moles Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen. A final passage briefly covers twenty-first-century developments, such as cyber espionage, but, as Janeczko says, the post-9/11 intelligence world is “a subject for another book.” A few portraits and reproductions of code charts illustrate, but this title relies mostly on Janeczko’s graceful, exciting storytelling to draw kids’ interest. With well-chosen subjects (including many women and African Americans who used their marginalized positions to gather information) and contagious enthusiasm for the spy world’s “tantalizing mysteries,” this makes a strong choice for both avid and reluctant readers alike, and appended source notes and a bibliography bolster the curricular appeal. Grades 6-10. --Gillian Engberg