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What I’m Reading by Debra Orado

This week’s winter storm that seemed to never end gave me the time I needed to sit back and enjoy finishing Max in the House of Spies: A Tale of WWII by Adam Gidwitz. This book does a bit of genre blending. As readers we often choose a book because we love mysteries or like to read only fantasy and when we begin reading, we are assured that our expectations of format or character type will be satisfied.  What happens when writers blend two genres, as in this case, historical fiction with a touch of fantasy? How does that even work?   

After reading House of Spies I can honestly say it works very well. The book’s heavy WWII theme looks at the impact the war had on Jewish people. The theme is mitigated by two characters Gidwitz invents, Stein and Berg, two archangels that are perched atop Max’s shoulders throughout the story. Only they argue and whisper into his ear causing all sorts of mayhem. They provide a certain comic relief. Just as eleven-year-old Max, a German Jew, finds himself an evacuee aboard Kindertransport, leaving his beloved family behind bound for England. His parents along with 10,000 others were able to secure passage for their children on a ship with other Jewish children bound for safety away from the Nazis. There is also backmatter at the conclusion of the book to help fill in the historical gaps for children.

The story also is a fantastical spy story! He lands in England and is sent to live with a family of British Jews, but like any child he misses his family and concocts a dangerous plan to go back inside Nazi Germany as a spy. How does an eleven year old convince the British secret service to take him on as a spy to infiltrate the enemy? You will be on the edge of your seat and find yourself believing in Max’s ability to stop the Nazi’s. Follow the plot twists and turns which leave you waiting to read the next book in the series, Max in the Land of Lies, which concludes the series, Operation Kindersport. I really enjoyed this book, come and check it out at the Witherle or see me about other WWII novels.