Monday, February 27, 2017

Book Review and Book Giveaway - MARY BOWSER AND THE CIVIL WAR SPY RING

Workman Publishing has shared a copy of MARY BOWSER AND THE CIVIL WAR SPY RING with Middle Grade Minded, the first in its new SPY ON HISTORY series.

The Publisher's Description:

Now introducing a unique interactive series for middle-grade readers: SPY ON HISTORY! Inside, precocious readers will uncover an unknown nugget of history with the added opportunity of solving a mystery as they read. This exciting series kicks off with Mary Bowser and the Civil War Spy Ring (Workman Publishing; January 10, 2017; ages 10 & up; $12.95) about real-life Mary Bowser, a free African American woman who worked as a maid within the Confederate White House during the Civil War to spy on Jefferson Davis.

As readers delve into the details of Mary’s heroic story—from her close calls when she almost gets caught to how she uses her photographic memory to “steal” top secret documents—they will also learn about the inner workings of the spy ring coordinated by Elizabeth “Bet” Van Lew, the firsthand effects of Abraham Lincoln’s groundbreaking Emancipation Proclamation, and the sacrifices so many made to bring an end to slavery. 

My Thoughts:

I really enjoyed this book! The story is compelling, and the interactive aspect of the book is well done and fun. At the beginning readers are given the tools they need to crack the code - a replica Civil War cipher wheel, documents, special red plastic filter - and clues are peppered throughout the book in both the illustrations and the text to help them figure out what happened to Mary's diary.

But apart from the fun interactive part of this book, this is a compelling story that shares an important piece of American history - the important role African Americans played during the civil war in gathering vital intelligence for the Union side. 

A great line in the historical notes sums it up: 

Stories like Mary's leave us with a lot of questions, not just about her, but about how history is written and who writes it.

The book does a wonderful job of immersing its readers in the tense world of the Civil War and what it was like to be a spy. Even as we are learning a wonderful history lesson, we are also reading a real thriller. We can't stop turning the pages because we need to know what happens to Mary!

I also loved that the books in the series are being written by what Workman describes as "a secret cadre of authors" under the nom de plume of Enigma Alberti. 

There is so much here for kids, their parents, and especially teachers to work with that I can imagine this series becoming a go-to for social studies teachers everywhere!

The second book in the series is due this fall: 

Spy on History: Victor Dowd and the WWII Ghost Army!

If the second book is as good as this one, I'd say Workman has hit on something wonderful and educational!

Want to Win a Copy?

Follow the instructions (be sure to leave a comment!) and this wonderful book could be yours!

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1 comment:

cleemckenzie said...

What an interesting and unique book. I'll have to "investigate" it. Thanks.