Spies, Lies, and Disguise: The Daring Tricks and Deeds that Won World War II – Jennifer Swanson; illustrated by Kevin O’Malley

  Spies, Lies, and Disguise: The Daring Tricks and Deeds that Won World War II – Jennifer Swanson; illustrated by Kevin O’Malley, Bloomsbury; (9781681197791), 2019

Format: hardcover

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 3.5

What did you like about the book? WWII buffs will love this detailed book about deceptions the Allies used during World War II to defeat the Germans. From fake armies to using civilians to using camouflage, the Allies used creative covert methods to defeat the enemy. Readers will learn about anthrax prepared for cattle in Germany to poison the agriculture system, bouncing bombs used to blow up a dam, and the massive effort to distract from D-Day. Various pull out information is included in each chapter including “Science Scoop”s and “WWII Warrior”s. Each chapter is introduced with a humorous WANTED poster detailing the type of person required to complete the deception detailed in that chapter. The photographs are well-chosen and interesting. Includes a selected biography, sources for more information, photograph credits, and an index.

To whom would you recommend this book?  Students who like WWII nonfiction will like this one immensely.

Anything you didn’t like about it?  While the conversational tone makes this book highly readable, it feels a little too casual for the topic of war. The author does say in “A Final Note” that war “certainly isn’t funny,” after having presented 124 pages that make it seem sort of funny. Moreover, some opportunities are missed like the chance to talk about the persecution that Alan Turing endured for being gay (he gets a featured pull out section, but it doesn’t mention the way he was treated). The dropping of the atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki receive serious photographs, but the moral implications of dropping these bombs isn’t really explored at all. Finally, after checking other reviews, it turns out that some of the information is incorrect, as well, such as the type of animal that actually died from the anthrax test cakes (sheep, not cows) and the time period that one of the spies was active. 

Who should buy this book? Recommended for middle school libraries with a strong interest in WWII nonfiction. 

Where would you shelve it? Nonfiction

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Laura Gardner, Dartmouth Middle School, Dartmouth, MA

Date reviewed: December 16, 2019


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