Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Dark Game: True Spy Stories

Title:               The Dark Game: True Spy Stories
Category:       Nonfiction
Grade:            14-18
Author:          Paul B. Janeczko
Publisher:       Candlewick
Place:              Somerville, MA
Date:               2010
Pages:             231

Spy stories have been a popular trend for several years now, and The Dark Game adds weight to the subject because it is the real deal – adventure, top notch gadgets and espionage that really happened.  Beginning with the Revolutionary War, Janeczko discusses the course of espionage and central intelligence agencies worldwide up through recent history.  Not only does he highlight some of America’s best spies, but also talks about some of the double agents who turned traitor and delivered American intelligence into enemy hands.  He includes sections on famous espionage cases such as the Zimmerman Telegraph, talks about special spy equipment and discusses several of the many codes spies have used to communicate. 

While shying away from the more modern approach to nonfiction, Janeckzo in fairness does make great effort to keep his book readable and avoid overly dry or tedious information dissemination.  The book is full of mini-biographies and stories, along with photographs and diagrams as needed.  While his narrative style of writing may have been the reason why this book has been honored with a YALSA award, it would reach a broader audience if it were done as a full-color, high-visual book in the vein of the DK books.  Nonfiction readers accustomed to a “snippet-style” work may be put off by the narrative format, along with younger teens and tweens, although Janeczko does keep his chapters short; older teens will appreciate the more in-depth look at the topic, particularly if they are fans of espionage fiction.  The book also reveals several surprises about our favorite traitors and historical personages like Benedict Arnold and George Washington, although the extensive discussion of the Cold War with no mention of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg was a glaring lack. 


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