Monday, February 17, 2014

Marvelous MG Monday review: George Washington, Spymaster by Thomas B. Allen

Happy President's Day! 

Since I'm celebrating George Washington's birthday (and his part in Double Vision: Code Name 711) on my blog all this week, I thought I would review some non-fiction for a change:

George Washington, Spymaster
How the Americans Outspied the British and won the Revolutionary War
by: Thomas B. Allen

From the publisher:

Follow the action as 1775 dawns, and Washington finds himself in serious trouble. At war with Britain, the world's most powerful empire, his ragtag army possesses only a few muskets, some cannons, and no money. The Americans' only hope is to wage an invisible war—a war of spies, intelligence networks, and deception. 

Enter the shadowy world of double agents, covert operations, codes and ciphers—a world so secret that America's spymaster himself doesn't know the identities of some of his agents. Meet members of the elusive Culper Ring, uncover a "mole" in the Sons of Liberty, and see how invisible ink and even a clothesline are used to send secret messages. You can even use Washington's own secret codebook, published here for the first time. Experience at close quarters the successes and failures of the Americans as they strive to outwit the British. Meet the chief of covert operations, one Benjamin Franklin, and several other surprising players in America's secret war. 

Author Thomas B. Allen has sifted through dozens of historical documents and coded letters to uncover the facts about a time shrouded in secrets. Archival art, coupled with lively pen-and-ink sketches by children's illustrator Cheryl Harness, detail all the action and adventure of this momentous tale. Like the highly acclaimed hardback, this little paperback is sure to have a big impact on the imagination of readers everywhere.

My thoughts:

Phew, that plot description from the publisher was long. But the praise is not unwarranted--this is a fun historical paperback perfect for anyone interested in learning more about George Washington. The historical facts are entertaining enough for any kid grade five and up (I found it fun to read). There's even a chart at the beginning of the book, so you can see just how intricate George Washington's web of spies really was. It's a fascinating bit of history, and this book makes George Washington three-dimensional to kids.

My only minor criticism is that it felt a little dated, with only pen-and-ink sketches. But otherwise, this is a non-fiction winner I highly recommend to teachers, parents and kids.

How I found out about this book:

A Google search when I was researching the Culper Ring (George Washington's spies) for Double Vision: Code Name 711 gave me this book. It's a bit of an undiscovered gem, I think...

For more Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday reviews, head over to author Shannon Messenger's blog!


  1. This is exactly the book I've been looking for, dropped in my lap when I wanted it! lol Thanks so much for the recommend, and happy MMGM!


  2. Glad it's helpful, Suzanne, and happy MMGM to you as well :-)

  3. this looks totally cool - and NF to boot!

  4. This sounds really interesting! I think my history-loving MG son would really enjoy this. Thanks!

  5. I hope he gets to read it, it's a fun book. Thanks for stopping by, Jenni!


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