Format: Uncorrected proof
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 3
Genre: historical fiction
What did you like about the book? 12-year-old Meg Kenyon has been living at her grandmother’s home in the occupied French countryside ever since her British father left to fight against the Nazis. Meg herself does errands for the Resistance, and finds out that her mother has been working for them as well. Meg discovers an injured British spy hiding out in her grandmother’s barn; he is there to deliver a coded message from her father, who has gone into hiding. The wounded man, Captain Stewart, was supposed to be embarking on a mission accompanying a family of German refugees hoping to get to Spain. He convinces Meg to go in his place, with the promise that if she succeeds, this family will be able to reunite Meg with her father. So she sets off with this group of strangers, armed with her father’s message, a hand-drawn map, and a backpack full of spy gadgets and gear provided by Captain Stewart. She soon learns that the people with whom she is traveling are, in fact, completely unrelated to each other and all have their own reasons for needing to escape their past. Pursued by, and narrowly escaping, Nazi soldiers at every turn of their journey, Meg and the others struggle to trust each other, even though they must rely on each other to remain safe.
Fraught with tension, this action-adventure novel will have readers nervously following Meg across France, on trains, on foot, in horse-drawn carts, and even skis when the party arrives near the Swiss border and the Jura Mountains (Meg is convinced that her father’s message is telling her to go to Switzerland, not Spain, as the others intended). Meg is smart and brave, and her leadership skills belie her young age. Readers will root for her as she tries to decode her father’s message and determine who, if anyone, among her companions is on her side, all the while running from certain danger (and a Nazi lieutenant who seems to have a personal vendetta against her along the lines of Inspector Javert). A map at the beginning will help put the story in context, and back matter includes information about secret codes and on the Special Operations Executive, the British spy enterprise in which Meg’s father and Captain Stewart are employed.
Anything you did not like about the book? It seemed like everything always worked out too perfectly for Meg and the rest, every time, just in time.
To whom would you recommend this book? Upper elementary or middle school readers who have enjoyed Nielsen’s previous books (A Night Divided is a very popular one) will find this a good fit, and those who like other World War II adventures like Making Bombs for Hitler will be drawn into Meg’s story as well.
Who should buy this book? Public and elementary school libraries
Where would you shelve it? Fiction
Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? no
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Leigh Russell King, Lincoln Street School, Northborough, Massachusetts.
Date of review: 4/3/2021