It’s 1942, World War II is raging, and New York City is full of Nazi spies. At least, it seems that way to Evelyn, a young girl who’s stuck with her aunt while her dad is off honeymooning with a new wife. Evelyn spends her time drawing the Amazing Adventures of Zirconium Man and Scooter—superhero versions of herself and her absent father. The only other kid around is Tony, the custodian’s son, and together they start looking for spies. At first they’re simply meddling kids, but then they do stumble upon actual spies, and it gets pretty thrilling as they try to trail the suspects without getting caught.
City of Spies was written by Susan Kim and Laurence Klavan, illustrated by Pascal Dizin, and I wouldn’t have guessed that it’s the first time any of them has worked on a graphic novel. There are some spots where the pacing is a little off; in particular, speech bubbles sometimes don’t go in the order you’d expect. But these are minor quibbles in a mostly excellent graphic novel—it has a great plot, interesting characters and fantastic artwork. Evelyn’s cartoons look like they’re from an old newspaper, with a more cartoony style and Ben-Day dots. The rest of the artwork is sharp and captures the feel of the 1940s; the style reminds me of Tintin.
Although the drawings look innocent and suitable for kids, I’d steer really young kids away from it. There’s humor in the book, but there’s also a guy who gets shot and dies, and another scene where a couple get surprised in bed. (In 1940s underwear, which is fairly modest, but you probably don’t want to explain what’s going on to your little kids.) Also, Evelyn’s cartoons of Zirconium Man and Scooter are cute at first, but hint at something more sinister—something younger kids probably won’t get. However, older kids would probably enjoy City of Spies, and they might even get interested in World War II history or secret codes.
Wired: Kid detectives and Nazi spies in 1940s New York City; I loved the artwork.
Tired: Occasional pacing problems, but not a significant issue.
Summary: I’d recommend this for older kids who like detective/action stories, particularly if they have an interest in World War II.
Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book.