You Wouldn’t Want to be a Secret Agent During World War II!

You Wouldn’t Want to Be a Secret Agent During World War II!: A Perilous Mission Behind Enemy Lines by John Malam

So, the whole concept of being a secret agent during World War II is kind of complicated right?  I mean, first there’s the whole question of Nazi Germany and the Free French vs. Vichy French and the Allies and the RAF, just sorting out the various involved parties takes pretty advanced understanding.  But this book is put together with a pretty young audience in mind.  It’s illustrated with cute illustrations.  The story is a step-by-step walk through of “your” experience being recruited to be a secret agent and “your” first mission.  It tries really hard to be accessible, but I’m just not sure how well it succeeded.  I have a ton of background knowledge of World War II and even some specific knowledge of resistance operations during WWII.  I understood it.  But will kids?  I may see if I can get any fourth graders to check it out for me and report back. I really do worry that those who have enough background knowledge to make heads or tails of the story will be too old for the juvenile reporting and illustrations. And I worry that the group that would love the idea of learning about spies and checking out the illustrations and side bars and captions might just be lost.

I guess the sweet spot would be guided classroom use for learning about non-fiction books. It certainly is one of the more interesting non-fiction books I’ve seen.

Sex, Nudity, Dating – None.
Profanity – None.
Death, Violence and Gore – The book is set during World War II. It keeps things pretty chipper and vague considering. You are told to write a will because chances are good that you won’t survive. If caught you may be tortured or shot by a firing squad.  You learn about silent killing – specifically a step-by-step how to guide. Various weapons are mentioned/appear in illustrations, including: a knife, guns, tanks, bombs, a dead rat stuffed with explosives, a booby-trapped suitcase, a “firepot”.
Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking – None.
Frightening or Intense Things – The spying is portrayed as exciting and tense but is not scary.

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2 Responses to You Wouldn’t Want to be a Secret Agent During World War II!

  1. Andrew Wilson says:

    My 9 year old son brought this book home from school. I had him read it and write a book report on it before I inspected the book myself. Imagine my horror when I was reading his report and he detailed to me exactly how to kill somebody “silently” with a dagger.

    I immediately started looking through the book and saw a full step by step graphic demonstrating exactly how to kill somebody with a text description. Very similar to what I saw in field manuals during my Army tenure.

    As Army veteran, I find this book offensive for the age group and just met with my son’s principle. The book is being removed from the school library. 9 year olds definitely do not need books with step by step instructions for murder.

    • Mrs.N says:

      I can absolutely understand your feelings about this. The purpose of my website is to provide parents like you with that type of information so that you can decide what is best for your family. I agree completely that the age group that the book will appeal to the most is far younger than the age group that would best be able to handle the content. Thanks for sharing your experience.

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