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How I Became a Spy: A Mystery of WWII London

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From the award-winning author of The Great Trouble comes a story of espionage, survival, and friendship during World War II. Bertie Bradshaw never set out to become a spy. He never imagined traipsing around war-torn London, solving ciphers, practicing surveillance, and searching for a traitor to the Allied forces. He certainly never expected that a strong-willed Ameri From the award-winning author of The Great Trouble comes a story of espionage, survival, and friendship during World War II. Bertie Bradshaw never set out to become a spy. He never imagined traipsing around war-torn London, solving ciphers, practicing surveillance, and searching for a traitor to the Allied forces. He certainly never expected that a strong-willed American girl named Eleanor would play Watson to his Holmes (or Holmes to his Watson, depending on who you ask). But when a young woman goes missing, leaving behind a coded notebook, Bertie is determined to solve the mystery. With the help of Eleanor and his friend David, a Jewish refugee--and, of course, his trusty pup, Little Roo--Bertie must decipher the notebook in time to stop a double agent from spilling the biggest secret of all to the Nazis. From the author of The Great Trouble, this suspenseful WWII adventure reminds us that times of war call for bravery, brains and teamwork from even the most unlikely heroes.


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From the award-winning author of The Great Trouble comes a story of espionage, survival, and friendship during World War II. Bertie Bradshaw never set out to become a spy. He never imagined traipsing around war-torn London, solving ciphers, practicing surveillance, and searching for a traitor to the Allied forces. He certainly never expected that a strong-willed Ameri From the award-winning author of The Great Trouble comes a story of espionage, survival, and friendship during World War II. Bertie Bradshaw never set out to become a spy. He never imagined traipsing around war-torn London, solving ciphers, practicing surveillance, and searching for a traitor to the Allied forces. He certainly never expected that a strong-willed American girl named Eleanor would play Watson to his Holmes (or Holmes to his Watson, depending on who you ask). But when a young woman goes missing, leaving behind a coded notebook, Bertie is determined to solve the mystery. With the help of Eleanor and his friend David, a Jewish refugee--and, of course, his trusty pup, Little Roo--Bertie must decipher the notebook in time to stop a double agent from spilling the biggest secret of all to the Nazis. From the author of The Great Trouble, this suspenseful WWII adventure reminds us that times of war call for bravery, brains and teamwork from even the most unlikely heroes.

30 review for How I Became a Spy: A Mystery of WWII London

  1. 4 out of 5

    Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance

    Bertie is helping out as a volunteer air-raid messenger during a bombing in London during World War II when his dog finds a battered red notebook and leads him to a mysterious young woman lying on the ground. He brings help for her, but she has disappeared, without explanation. When a feisty American girl comes in search of the notebook, Bertie is drawn into a mystery that involves ciphers, the Allied invasion, and spies. How I Became a Spy is a captivating story, with strong characters, perfect Bertie is helping out as a volunteer air-raid messenger during a bombing in London during World War II when his dog finds a battered red notebook and leads him to a mysterious young woman lying on the ground. He brings help for her, but she has disappeared, without explanation. When a feisty American girl comes in search of the notebook, Bertie is drawn into a mystery that involves ciphers, the Allied invasion, and spies. How I Became a Spy is a captivating story, with strong characters, perfect for middle school history buffs and mystery readers.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Quirkybookworm

    This book was such a delight to read! It is gear towards preteen and teenagers. Adults will enjoy reading it. It tells of a young boy during WWII and how he learned to be a spy. I enjoyed learning how to be an amateur spy such as how to decipher a code, how to tell if someone is following you and how to lose the person. This young hero has captured my heart. This story helped my imagination grow bigger. I imagined being with him in the book. This book that will help the YA understand the era of WWII This book was such a delight to read! It is gear towards preteen and teenagers. Adults will enjoy reading it. It tells of a young boy during WWII and how he learned to be a spy. I enjoyed learning how to be an amateur spy such as how to decipher a code, how to tell if someone is following you and how to lose the person. This young hero has captured my heart. This story helped my imagination grow bigger. I imagined being with him in the book. This book that will help the YA understand the era of WWII and how it was for kids during that time. They will be able to see the horrors, courage, unlikely friendship, war, etc. through this brave hero's eyes. I strongly recommend this novel for all young kids who are learning about WWII. This is the novel which will pique their interest strongly, encouraging them to learn more about this era. As I was reading this delightful novel, I felt like a kid all over again but yet being forced to mature as the war went on. This is what reading a book should do to a reader, and this author did a great job of it. I'd give this book a low four stars I received this lovely ARC from Random House Children's/ Knopf Books for Young Readers through Net Galley. Thank you!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Ms. Yingling

    E ARC from Edelweiss Plus Bertie is a very young civil defense volunteer who lives with his father at a boarding house for single policeman after the family home was destroyed and his mother and brother relocated to the country. On his first official call, he forgets his helmet, brings along his dog, Little Roo, and leaves his coat with an unconscious woman he finds in an alley. He also finds a red notebook after an encounter with an American girl, but later realizes that the notebook belongs to E ARC from Edelweiss Plus Bertie is a very young civil defense volunteer who lives with his father at a boarding house for single policeman after the family home was destroyed and his mother and brother relocated to the country. On his first official call, he forgets his helmet, brings along his dog, Little Roo, and leaves his coat with an unconscious woman he finds in an alley. He also finds a red notebook after an encounter with an American girl, but later realizes that the notebook belongs to someone else... someone who is working as a spy. Once he meets the American girl, Eleanor, he finds out that the journal belongs to her former tutor, a french woman named Violette who gave the journal to Eleanor for safe keeping. The journal is in code, so Bertie approaches his friend David, a German Jewish evacuee staying in London with foster grandparents, to help them out. David is a fan of Sherlock Holmes and loves codes. As the messages emerge, the trio gain more facts about Violette's involvement with the resistance to the Nazis. They manage to keep going through the "baby Blitz" of 1944 and survive until D-Day, using their connections to important war leaders to get Violette's message heard. Strengths: This had a lot of good details about living in London and having to deal with air raids, shortages, and general war time activity. I liked that young people had believable war time roles. David's plight was interesting and realistically portrayed; he knew his parents hadn't survived, but he tried to focus on his life in London and things he could control. Weaknesses: I wasn't as interested in Bertie's guilt over his brother's injury when their house was destroyed, but it was handled well and not harped on too much. What I really think: This is an excellent book about the London home front, which is a fascinating topic, and includes lots of clever use of codes and ciphers. There are four practice exercises that can be done as the story unfolds. I will definitely purchase, but just wish that there were more books about Vietnam and Korea!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kathy Martin

    This middle grade historical mystery stars Bertie Bradshaw, Eleanor Shea, and David Goodman. These thirteen-year-olds find themselves solving ciphers to find a German double agent in London before the specifics of D-Day can be discovered and sent to Germany. Bertie's father is a policeman. Bertie is working as an air-raid messenger. One evening when the sirens go off, Bertie grabs his dog Little Roo and heads out to the air-raid shelter. He directs everyone he sees to the nearest shelter includin This middle grade historical mystery stars Bertie Bradshaw, Eleanor Shea, and David Goodman. These thirteen-year-olds find themselves solving ciphers to find a German double agent in London before the specifics of D-Day can be discovered and sent to Germany. Bertie's father is a policeman. Bertie is working as an air-raid messenger. One evening when the sirens go off, Bertie grabs his dog Little Roo and heads out to the air-raid shelter. He directs everyone he sees to the nearest shelter including American Eleanor Shea. He literally bumps into her. When she continues on her way, Bertie finds a small red notebook. Then Little Roo leads him to an alley and an unconscious young woman. When Bertie gets back to his base and sends help, the young woman is gone. Where she went and who she was is a mystery for him to solve. The red notebook contains still another mystery. It tells of a young woman who is being trained to infiltrate German-held lands and assist the Resistance. It talks about her training. However, the last part of the book is ciphered. Bertie calls on his friend Jewish-immigrant David who is a devoted fan of Sherlock Holmes and a good puzzle solver. The boys also reconnect with Eleanor who tells them that the red notebook was written by her French tutor Violette. Violette asked Eleanor to take care of it and share it with her father, who works for the OSS, if something should happen to her. The kids work together to solve the various ciphers and then use their information to try to track a traitor. While the three main characters are fictitious actual historical figures do make brief appearances in the story. Both General Dwight D. "Ike" Eisenhower and his dog Telek have a role as does Leo Marks who worked with the Special Operations Executive (SOE) who sent civilians to occupied territory and who wrote a book after the war. Each chapter begins with a quote from the SOE Training Manual or other quotation and each section has a different cipher for the reader to solve (with solutions in the back of the book). There are notes at the end citing the chapter quotations. This was a nice mystery about a time period that interests many students.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Myarn

    How I Became a Spy by Deborah Hopkinson 5 stars I start this by saying I am not the right demographic for this book, but I enjoyed it all the same. The book was fun to read and had codes to solve for parts of the book. Aside from the adventure and intrigue, there were several strong historical references in this book. - The plight of Jewish children that escaped before the roundups; the food deprivation in Britain during the war; PTSD for the people of London that survived the Blitz; the entrance How I Became a Spy by Deborah Hopkinson 5 stars I start this by saying I am not the right demographic for this book, but I enjoyed it all the same. The book was fun to read and had codes to solve for parts of the book. Aside from the adventure and intrigue, there were several strong historical references in this book. - The plight of Jewish children that escaped before the roundups; the food deprivation in Britain during the war; PTSD for the people of London that survived the Blitz; the entrance of America as an ally during WWII and D-Day the Normandy Invasion. There were also real people introduced as characters in this book. This is an excellent story that slips in a history lesson on the side. Thank you Netgalley and Random House Children for allowing me to read the ARC.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Alex (not a dude) Baugh

    It's 1944, American servicemen have arrived in London and everyone is talking about the pending invasion of France to break the Nazi stronghold in Europe and end Hitler's reign. London is being bombed once again by the Germans, and for Bertie Bradshaw, 13, and his rescue dog Little Roo, it means finally being old enough to become a messenger for the Civil Defense post in his neighborhood. One night, as the air raid sirens begin, Bertie bumps into an American girl in a blue coat about his age, who It's 1944, American servicemen have arrived in London and everyone is talking about the pending invasion of France to break the Nazi stronghold in Europe and end Hitler's reign. London is being bombed once again by the Germans, and for Bertie Bradshaw, 13, and his rescue dog Little Roo, it means finally being old enough to become a messenger for the Civil Defense post in his neighborhood. One night, as the air raid sirens begin, Bertie bumps into an American girl in a blue coat about his age, who drops a little red notebook. Bertie picks it up to return, but the girl has already run off and so has Little Roo, down a different street and straight to a unconscious woman laying on the sidewalk. Determining that she isn't a bomb victim, Bertie reports the incident to his Civil Defense post, but when they return to the spot where the women was laying, she is nowhere in sight. What could have happened to this mysterious lady? Back home, Bertie pulls out the red notebook to see if he could find the owner's name. Instead, he finds notes made by someone in training with the SOE (Special Operations Executive) to become a spy. Fascinated by what has been written, Bertie keeps reading until suddenly the writer begins using random letters that just look like gibberish. Thinking it might be a cipher, Bertie decides to talk to his best friend David, a German Jewish boy who had come to London in 1939 on the Kindertransport, and is a Sherlock Holmes fan who also happens knows all about ciphers. The next day, a Saturday, Bertie and Little Roo head over to where most of the Americans are staying hoping to find the girl in the blue coat. Realizing it was a long shot, the two begin walking when Bertie notices that he is being following by a man. Dodging the man, Bertie decides to follow him instead and is led right to Baker Street, to a place called the Inter-Services Research Bureau. Thinking this might just be the SOE offices he read about in the notebook, there's no time to investigate what it's all about because suddenly his arm was grabbed by none other than the American girl in the blue coat, demanding he return the red notebook immediately. But why? A 13-year-old girl can't be training to become a spy, can she? But how is the notebook connected to this American girl named Eleanor Shea? Right from the start there's a lot going on in this exciting mystery/adventure novel. It turns out that Eleanor knows that the notebook belongs to Violette Romy, a former French tutor of hers. David is able to help with some of the cipher in the notebook, but not all of it. As secrets about the impending top secret invasion and the French Resistance are revealed to the three friends, they also discover a series of double crosses and traitors putting both Violette's life and the liberation of Europe from the Nazis in jeopardy. But that still leaves a question about the identity of the unconscious lady and the man following Bertie. Mystery abounds. I loved reading How I Became a Spy. Not only is it full of historical references, but for added interest and authenticity, Hopkinson has also peopled it with some real, if not necessarily, familiar people, such as General Dwight Eisenhower, Leo Marks, a SOE code maker, and she modeled the character of Warden Ita, of the Civil Defense after the real air-raid warden E. Ita Ekpenyon, who was born in Nigeria. The story is narrated by Bertie, who is a lively character despite living with the memory of his paralyzing fear during the Blitz that caused injury to his older brother, Will and who alway feels like he has disappointed his father. The novel takes place over the course of one week, beginning on Friday, February 18, 1944 and ending on Thursday, February 24, 1944, plus an Epilogue dated Sunday, July 2, 1944. The one week perimeter adds to the excitement and tension of needing to decode the pages written in cipher and then getting the information into the hands of the right people. The bombing of London by the Luftwaffe in 1944, often referred to as the "Baby Blitz" isn't generally the setting for historical fiction, let alone that written for middle graders, making this a great addition to the body of home front literature. One of my favorite things about How I Became a Spy is that Hopkinson has included four different ciphers scattered throughout the book, allowing readers to learn about some of the different kinds of ciphers they work alone with Bertie, David, and Eleanor. There is a Simple Substitution Cipher, a Caesar Cipher, a Atbash Cipher, and a Mixed-Alphabet Cipher. And at one point, they make and use a Cipher Wheel. I really liked this hands on activity for kids to try. How I Became a Spy is an engaging historical fiction novel with engaging characters that will surely have wide-spread appeal. I can't recommend it highly enough. This book is recommended for readers age 9+ This book was provided to me by the author

  7. 5 out of 5

    Panda Incognito

    This well-researched book captures the local color and worldwide stakes of WWII in London, but even though I am impressed with the author's thoroughness and accuracy, the mystery fell flat for me. In this novel, children try to solve a mystery based on a spy's notebook, learning how to decode ciphers and read her entries about operations in France. This is somewhat plausible, but the first several entries are written in plain English, saying things like, "I'm training as a spy! I'm with the SOE! This well-researched book captures the local color and worldwide stakes of WWII in London, but even though I am impressed with the author's thoroughness and accuracy, the mystery fell flat for me. In this novel, children try to solve a mystery based on a spy's notebook, learning how to decode ciphers and read her entries about operations in France. This is somewhat plausible, but the first several entries are written in plain English, saying things like, "I'm training as a spy! I'm with the SOE! My supervisors told me not to journal about what we're learning, but I decided to anyway!" PLEASE. Only someone with a death wish would do this. I journal about everything. I have for years. But if I was going to risk my life as a spy in France, and had already put effort into memorizing a cover story, getting French shoes, and ripping out the English labels in my clothing, you had better believe that I would leave my "HEY, I'M A SPY!" journal behind before parachuting into enemy-occupied territory. Secondly, once I was in France, I would care enough about my own survival and the survival of my associates not to write about our activities in a suspiciously ciphered notebook. In this novel, the spy's journal was a plot device, not a believable part of history, and it was impossible for me to suspend disbelief. If I, the most compulsive journal-writer I know, would have enough sense not to write about my hypothetical spy activities, then this other woman has no excuse. Another issue I have with this novel is that the children themselves never get any real character development. When my brother read the plot description on the book's inside jacket, he laughed and told me, "That's so typical for YA novels. It's a story about a white male main character with a female friend and a minority male friend!" I told him that this was actually a middle grade novel, not YA, but he was right about the rest of it. The main character, Bertie, has adventures with Eleanor, the feisty young American girl, and David, the Jewish refugee, and they never progress much past those stereotypes. Nor do the story's emotional arcs receive enough development to have any real impact on a reader. I was willing to read this story just for plot, not for character, but that didn't work out either. Even though the mystery was fascinating for a while, the author skipped over the climax, didn't include any type of showdown, and never even reveals who the English leak was who had compromised spy activity in France. Instead of resolving the story in a satisfying way, the last several chapters just tie up loose ends and retrospectively summarize things which ought to have played out on the page in full color. Since I've done nothing but complain about this book for the whole review, you might wonder why I'm rating it three stars. Honestly, the research and historical representation was just so good that I can't rate it anything lower. I know that a lot of kids will love this book's code-breaking story and learn a lot about the war because of it, and because I'm so passionate about World War II, I'm glad that this book exists to excite young readers and interest them in reading more about the time period.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    How I Became a Spy By Deborah Hopkinson @deborah_hopkinson Published by Random House Kids @randomhousekids Thank you to the author and @kidlitexchange for sharing a copy of this book. All opinions are my own. Oh, this story! It grabbed me from the moment I started reading and I couldn’t put it down! From the first page, I felt the danger of wartime London in 1944. I understood the characters constant fear that bombs could fall at any moment. I felt their hunger as they faced endless days of powdere How I Became a Spy By Deborah Hopkinson @deborah_hopkinson Published by Random House Kids @randomhousekids Thank you to the author and @kidlitexchange for sharing a copy of this book. All opinions are my own. Oh, this story! It grabbed me from the moment I started reading and I couldn’t put it down! From the first page, I felt the danger of wartime London in 1944. I understood the characters constant fear that bombs could fall at any moment. I felt their hunger as they faced endless days of powdered eggs and very little to eat. But I also felt their certainty that the Americans were going to lead an invasion onto the European continent very soon which would bring an end to a very long war. This story is told through the eyes of thirteen year old Bertie, a civil defense messenger for the war effort. He and his two friends, David and Eleanor, have the adventure of their young lives as they search for Eleanor’s missing tutor, Violette, and work together to decipher her secret notebook. Along the way, they face danger and adventure as they help to unmask a traitor. I loved the friends’ determination to solve the mystery, to help Violette and to assist the in war effort. I loved their creativity in solving the ciphers that led to the traitor. I loved their consideration, kindness, loyalty and courtesy to one another and to everyone they met. This is a great book for historical fiction lovers. I learned so much about London in 1944. I appreciated the author’s notes at the end that included historical notes, as well as the definitions of terms used in the book. In fact, I asked the author if there actually were teenage messengers in London during the war and learned there were! It’s also the perfect choice for kids asking for an adventure with lots of action and danger, a complex mystery or simply a fascinating story with strong characters. This is a must buy for every elementary and middle school library. You’ll probably need multiple copies!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    I think it would be cool, but I've never had the spirit or the smarts to be a spy, so when I read the advanced reader copy of Deborah Hopkinson's newest book, How I Became I Spy: A Mystery of WWII London (coming February 12th, 2019), I felt that I had reached a new goal while following the story of Bertie Bradshaw, a young boy living in WWII London. Summary: Penguin Random House states, "Bertie Bradshaw never set out to become a spy. He never imagined traipsing around war-torn London, solving cip I think it would be cool, but I've never had the spirit or the smarts to be a spy, so when I read the advanced reader copy of Deborah Hopkinson's newest book, How I Became I Spy: A Mystery of WWII London (coming February 12th, 2019), I felt that I had reached a new goal while following the story of Bertie Bradshaw, a young boy living in WWII London. Summary: Penguin Random House states, "Bertie Bradshaw never set out to become a spy. He never imagined traipsing around war-torn London, solving ciphers, practicing surveillance, and searching for a traitor to the Allied forces." This middle grade novel practically sells itself --"historical fiction by Deborah Hopkinson," "WWII," "mystery," and "solving ciphers" are the book talk keywords here. Students are going to love this one! What I Loved: I love that Deborah Hopkinson, once again, gives us a real-life peek into history. This time it's explanations of ciphers and codes, the appearance of actual figures, such as Leo Marks and Dwight D. Eisenhower from WWII reality, and the Special Operations Executive (SOE) that make the story engaging and believable. The SOE organization, with headquarters at 64 Baker Street, trained men and women to become secret agents. In the story, Bertie, his dog Little Roo (LR), his Jewish-refugee-friend, David, and a mysterious American girl are all caught up in the action. There's a young girl missing -- an agent -- and Bertie must hide her secret notebook, translate it, and inform the right people before a double agent ruins the Allies' plans. Why You Should Read This: How I Became a Spy is an action-packed spy thriller for middle schoolers, or anyone who likes puzzles, Sherlock Holmes, London's crowded streets, war stories, or doggie heroes. And... if you ever wanted to be a spy...this book might just help get you started.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    “How I Became a Spy,” by Deborah Hopkinson, a World War II mystery has an exciting plot with factual details about London, believable/empathic characters, and examples of ciphers that will be fun to figure out with young readers. Special Operations Executive agents (SOE), who volunteered to go to Europe as spies prior to the Allied Invasion, provide the informational backdrop of the novel. These brave souls sent back messages, ciphers, in code. Many of the agents were women, like Violette who’s f “How I Became a Spy,” by Deborah Hopkinson, a World War II mystery has an exciting plot with factual details about London, believable/empathic characters, and examples of ciphers that will be fun to figure out with young readers. Special Operations Executive agents (SOE), who volunteered to go to Europe as spies prior to the Allied Invasion, provide the informational backdrop of the novel. These brave souls sent back messages, ciphers, in code. Many of the agents were women, like Violette who’s fictionalized in Hopkinson’s book. The main character is Bertie Bradshaw, a 13-year-old civil defense volunteer. His sidekick, Little Roo, a dog trained to find victims in the rubble. The action kicks off when they happen onto a young woman lying in an alley. Bertie hurries to cover her with his coat, and takes off to report the incident. When officers go to find her, she’s disappeared. So begins the complicated task of finding Violette before a double agent blows the whistle on the Allied Forces’ mission to invade France. This plan is hinted at in ciphers in Violette’s notebook, which Bertie finds on the street after he nearly runs down into Eleanor on his bike. She’s a spunky American, just Bertie’s age, a key player in the spy caper, along with David, a Jewish pal of Bertie’s. The three comprise a formidable team of sleuths in this fast-moving book that only slows down when readers try to untangle the ciphers, a pleasant diversion that could turn into a family project. Hopkinson, a personal favorite, scores high marks with “How I Became a Spy,” chock full of references to Sherlock Holmes and direct quotes from the SOE agents’ manual. Get crackin’.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Becky

    First sentence: I wasn't thinking about becoming a spy that night. I was just trying to be brave, do a good job, and stay out of trouble. It wasn't going well. Premise/plot: Bertie Bradshaw stars in this World War II adventure. It begins during an air raid. Bertie and his dog, L.R. "Little Roo," are doing their duty--their volunteer service. He sees a girl drop something--what turns out to be a journal--and later sees a woman collapsed on the sidewalk. He goes for help, but by the time he returns First sentence: I wasn't thinking about becoming a spy that night. I was just trying to be brave, do a good job, and stay out of trouble. It wasn't going well. Premise/plot: Bertie Bradshaw stars in this World War II adventure. It begins during an air raid. Bertie and his dog, L.R. "Little Roo," are doing their duty--their volunteer service. He sees a girl drop something--what turns out to be a journal--and later sees a woman collapsed on the sidewalk. He goes for help, but by the time he returns the woman is gone. It is only later when he begins to read the journal that he realizes what he's stumbled upon. The journal belongs to a spy. Half of the journal is written in cypher. From what he can tell, the spy is convinced that someone is passing along information to the Nazis! Can Bertie and his friends solve the mystery and warn the British government in time? My thoughts: I liked this one. I did. I liked Bertie, Little Roo, Eleanor, and David. (David is one of the Jewish children sent to Britain early on in the war--circa 1938? Eleanor is the American girl who accidentally dropped the journal in the first place. Little Roo is a brave dog that won my heart early on in the novel. I was so THANKFUL that this was not a sad dog book. The ending felt a bit rushed and slightly unfinished. I still don't know WHO the double agent was or HOW they discovered his identity. The author just jumps forward to the end where the children are meeting with the higher-ups and all is well.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Amber Webb

    How I Became A Spy was a phenomenal historical middle grade fiction. I loved the setting, the characters, the codes, the mystery and the intrigue. Okay, I loved everything about this book! The story of three young children during WWII in London who were suddenly takes with solving a major war mystery. I loved the quotes to start each chapter, the connection to Sherlock Holmes and the focus on the importance and power of children. This book will appeal to a broad range of readers because of the h How I Became A Spy was a phenomenal historical middle grade fiction. I loved the setting, the characters, the codes, the mystery and the intrigue. Okay, I loved everything about this book! The story of three young children during WWII in London who were suddenly takes with solving a major war mystery. I loved the quotes to start each chapter, the connection to Sherlock Holmes and the focus on the importance and power of children. This book will appeal to a broad range of readers because of the historical setting, the codes and deciphering, and the mystery. I think kids, and teachers alike, will truly love this book.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Shelley

    Bertie didn't meant to become a spy, but he found a battered notebook while volunteering for the civil defense and ends up part of a big mystery about an Allied traitor, working with an American girl and a Jewish refugee. Entertaining and full of action, with codes for readers to break. Really fun and engaging.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Smart Bookaholics Inc Bookstore

    What a great read this was! I'd even go as far as to say this is in a way a coming of age book. I really enjoyed this book. I'm usually not into books that pertain to the war, but this author entwined a wonderful plot into a not so wonderful era! Thank you Net-galley for the free earc in exchange for an honest review.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Yoder

    So many fun things in this book. Loved the ciphers. Enjoyed the lesser known historical WWII focus. I knew there would be something exciting coming, and then suddenly I didn’t want to quit reading to find out how it ended.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mr. Gottshalk

    There's a lot going on in this book - falling bombs, spy activity, the city of London coping with war, and a group of kids who are pretty great at cracking secret codes. However, it just didn't sit right with me. This book felt too much like an adult telling kids what to do, what to say and where to go. And I doubt enough 4th-6th graders have enough background knowledge of England during the middle of World War II. It was...ok. I mean, I finished it in a few days, but after reading The War That There's a lot going on in this book - falling bombs, spy activity, the city of London coping with war, and a group of kids who are pretty great at cracking secret codes. However, it just didn't sit right with me. This book felt too much like an adult telling kids what to do, what to say and where to go. And I doubt enough 4th-6th graders have enough background knowledge of England during the middle of World War II. It was...ok. I mean, I finished it in a few days, but after reading The War That Saved My Life and The War I Finally Won, this book fell a little flat.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Denise Chojnacki

    I thought this book was a wonderful combination of a story that contained action, although not action-packed, mystery and good writing. I wasn't necessarily glued to each page but the story flowed really well to keep the reader very interested. A bonus was the cipher codes in the back for kids to try their own messages and be their own detectives. The interactive nature of this book would be a great draw for young readers. There were also some underlying themes of forgiveness and family that dee I thought this book was a wonderful combination of a story that contained action, although not action-packed, mystery and good writing. I wasn't necessarily glued to each page but the story flowed really well to keep the reader very interested. A bonus was the cipher codes in the back for kids to try their own messages and be their own detectives. The interactive nature of this book would be a great draw for young readers. There were also some underlying themes of forgiveness and family that deepened the character of this story. Deborah Hopkinson definitely delivered on this one.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Karen Arendt

    Bertie is a great character as are his friends Eleanor and David. The story is exciting, and the puzzles add reader engagement. This is a great story for anyone who is interested in WWII history.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Lesley

    Mystery, spies, double agents, coded messages, a heroic dog, and WWII! How I Became A Spy takes place from February 18 until March 1, 1944, a time period which affected the successful invasion held on D-Day. Bertie is a 13-year-old who lives in a London experiencing the Little Blitz attacks. Feeling guilt over his older brother’s serious injuries from the Blitz a few years before, Bertie lives in the police barracks with his father and serves as a civil defense volunteer with Little Roo, his dog Mystery, spies, double agents, coded messages, a heroic dog, and WWII! How I Became A Spy takes place from February 18 until March 1, 1944, a time period which affected the successful invasion held on D-Day. Bertie is a 13-year-old who lives in a London experiencing the Little Blitz attacks. Feeling guilt over his older brother’s serious injuries from the Blitz a few years before, Bertie lives in the police barracks with his father and serves as a civil defense volunteer with Little Roo, his dog trained to rescue people from bombed buildings. During one nighttime raid, he meets a mysterious American girl, finds a notebook, discovers a young woman who is passed out on a street (who disappears by the time he brings back help), and he becomes involved in a mystery of intrigue. As he reads through the notebook, which belongs to a female French spy being trained by the Special Operations Executive, he finds that it contains coded messages that he needs to crack to save the woman and the secrecy of the planned invasion of Occupied France. Bertie joins forces with Eleanor, the American girl who was holding the notebook for her former French tutor and friend, and his best friend and classmate David, a Jewish refugee from Germany, who is well-versed in ciphers. With only a few days until the trap is to be set for the double agent, the three have to determine whom to trust as they work to break the ciphers and put Violette’s plan in motion. David encourages them, “Sometimes people do the impossible…look at me, and others who came here on trains. Thousands of us are here, and alive, only because a few people did what others thought couldn’t be done.” (179-180) With references to Sherlock Holmes and quotes from the actual Special Operations Executive training lecture and manual, as well as practice cipher messages, this novel is a fun and exciting read through history with memorable characters, some of whom actually existed. As the boys’ history teacher says, “…because we are living through a war against tyranny, we have a special responsibility…To learn from the past, understand the present, and change the future.” (191)

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kate Waggoner

    @kidlitexchange #partner Thank you to the @kidlitexchange newtwork and the publisher for the advance copy of this book. All opinions are my own. When Bertie Bradshaw left that night to complete his shift as an air raid messenger, he never dreamed of becoming a spy. All that changed after he had a run-in (literally) with a mysterious American girl and found a red notebook. The notebook included notes from secret agent training lectures and what looked like a bunch of gibberish. With some help from @kidlitexchange #partner Thank you to the @kidlitexchange newtwork and the publisher for the advance copy of this book. All opinions are my own. When Bertie Bradshaw left that night to complete his shift as an air raid messenger, he never dreamed of becoming a spy. All that changed after he had a run-in (literally) with a mysterious American girl and found a red notebook. The notebook included notes from secret agent training lectures and what looked like a bunch of gibberish. With some help from his friends, Bertie discovers that the gibberish is actually a cipher which they set out to decode. The group discovers that the allied invasion plans may be in danger of being exposed to the Nazis, and it's up to them to find the double agent and save the day. I absolutely adore Deborah Hopkinson's books and writing style. I love WWII historical fiction and spy stories, and Hopkinson's newest book did not disappoint. This book was engaging, suspenseful, and captivating. I was hooked from page one and didn't want to put the book down. This was actually a pretty quick read (I finished it in less than 2 days). The characters were quirky, brave, and intelligent and together they demonstrated the importance of teamwork and resilience. I really enjoyed the historical and literary facts/references that were weaved throughout the story. I also think that middle grade readers will really enjoy the spy practice sections. I cannot recommend this book enough and can't wait to get a copy for my classroom library.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Traci

    12 y/o Bertie lives in London during WWII. He is a civil defense volunteer who helps get important messages to rescue workers during air raids. During one raid Bertie and his dog LR ( short for Little Roo) , run into a girl on the street. After the girl leaves LR finds a notebook she left behind. After smelling the notebook LR, who is trained as a search & rescue dog, leads Bertie to an alley where a young woman lays unconscious. Bertie goes for help but when he returns the woman is gone. Su 12 y/o Bertie lives in London during WWII. He is a civil defense volunteer who helps get important messages to rescue workers during air raids. During one raid Bertie and his dog LR ( short for Little Roo) , run into a girl on the street. After the girl leaves LR finds a notebook she left behind. After smelling the notebook LR, who is trained as a search & rescue dog, leads Bertie to an alley where a young woman lays unconscious. Bertie goes for help but when he returns the woman is gone. Suspecting the notebook belongs to the missing woman he reads it for clues. From there the mystery involving secret agents, traitors, and the D Day invasion begins. As a bonus, several coded messages are included, each using a different type of code. Readers are encouraged to use their spy skills to decipher each message! Recommended for fans of mystery, historical fiction , WWII, and/or adventure stories.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Michelle Kidwell

    How I Became a Spy A Mystery of WWII London by Deborah Hopkinson Random House Children's Knopf Books for Young Readers Children's Fiction Pub Date 12 Feb 2019 I an reviewing a viewing a copy of How I Became A Spy through Random House Children’s and Netgalley: Bertie Bradshaw did not set out to become a spy. He could never have imagined traipsing all over war torn London, learning to solve ciphers and pract surveillance as well as searching for Traitors of the allied forces. He never expected to do these How I Became a Spy A Mystery of WWII London by Deborah Hopkinson Random House Children's Knopf Books for Young Readers Children's Fiction Pub Date 12 Feb 2019 I an reviewing a viewing a copy of How I Became A Spy through Random House Children’s and Netgalley: Bertie Bradshaw did not set out to become a spy. He could never have imagined traipsing all over war torn London, learning to solve ciphers and pract surveillance as well as searching for Traitors of the allied forces. He never expected to do these things with a strong willed American Girl named Eleanor. When a Young Woman goes missing leaving behind a notebook in code Bertie is determined to solve the mystery his friend Eleanor and his friend David a Young Jewish Refugee will have to help along with his pup Littme Roo. I give How I Became A Spy five out of five stars! Happy Reading!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Story Eater

    Part spy thriller, part detective procedural, How I Became a Spy is a WWII story that places some context around the air raids in London and their effect on the collective mental stress for the city of London (and the whole of the UK) during the war. It also draws specific attention to one of the most important events toward the end of the war, D-Day. Hopkinson does an amazing job of engaging the reader to become involved, visually and kinesthetically, through puzzle and cipher activities interl Part spy thriller, part detective procedural, How I Became a Spy is a WWII story that places some context around the air raids in London and their effect on the collective mental stress for the city of London (and the whole of the UK) during the war. It also draws specific attention to one of the most important events toward the end of the war, D-Day. Hopkinson does an amazing job of engaging the reader to become involved, visually and kinesthetically, through puzzle and cipher activities interlaced within the narrative. Young readers can get their fill of imaginative scenarios with WWII’s historical giants while putting themselves in the shoes of our heroes and heroines, both human and canine.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kami

    - This was a fun story, but I don't have much to say about it. - I liked that the book was a mystery and historical fiction. It was fun to see WWII from a younger perspective. - I really liked learning about different codes and how to decipher them. - The relationship between Bertie and his dog is really cute. - The story starts out slow, but it gathers interest along the way. - I think this was a fun and cute story, and I think the target audience will have a lot of fun with it.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Marilyn Smith

    If you love solving codes and spy craft, this is your book. Bertie's a civil dense volunteer (WWII) which helps the war effort in London. When he tries to help two people find the closet shelter they brush him off. It's only the next day that Bertie realizes these two people may be involved in a spy ring but on whose side? Bertie and friends have only a few days to decode the messages he's found to get to the real story. Looks of codes to solve, surveillance tips and plain old detecting work makes If you love solving codes and spy craft, this is your book. Bertie's a civil dense volunteer (WWII) which helps the war effort in London. When he tries to help two people find the closet shelter they brush him off. It's only the next day that Bertie realizes these two people may be involved in a spy ring but on whose side? Bertie and friends have only a few days to decode the messages he's found to get to the real story. Looks of codes to solve, surveillance tips and plain old detecting work makes this an exciting, fun read.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    The plot is set out well. Each the three main characters is navigating the war-induced problems of their own. Four types of codes are explained as used in the narrative, then the reader is give one to decipher with the answer and explanation in the back. Additional historic matter in the back for those interested.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    My first 5-star book of the year! A superbly crafted mystery replete with adventure and interesting historical references. Accomplishes the feat of being both informative and entertaining. Fun ciphers are interspersed throughout the text which I could see kids and families solving together, if so inclined. Strongly recommended. Grades 5-8. Grade 4, if a bedtime read-aloud. Would love to see this title get some Newbery love at the end of the year.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kristin

    A solid read that was maybe more educational than thrilling, but I liked the style. Aside from the unlikely premise of a spy keeping a code journal that could easily be found and decoded, I thought the rest of the story worked well. It was a little anticlimactic, but this is a good read for spy lovers.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Brenda

    This a great title for middle grade readers. It has just the right amount of action, truth, worry and friendship woven into a accurate portrayal of the resistance. I can't wait to share it with Eddie - he's so interested in how people behave together and what their motivations are.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Melanie

    This is great for kids who like a mystery. I am also thinking I would like to create some book groups around codes and ciphers. I'm thinking The Romeo and Juliet Code which is also a WWII Book with codes.

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