Monday, April 9, 2018

Spy on History- Victor Dowd and the World War II Ghost Army by Enigma Alberti and Scott Wegener

I have a fun book to share with you for middle grade Monday- Spy on History: Victor Dowd and the World War II Ghost Army by Enigma Alberti and Scott Wegener.

The Book-
This is a hands-on book that includes the story of the real Ghost Army that helped the Allies win World War II and a spy kit that allows the reader to solve clues as to where Victor Dowd hid his sketchbook. You will need a physical copy to use this spy book.

My Thoughts-
The book is all tell, tell, tell. Almost like a travel dialogue. There is a narrator that goes over what Victor Dowd and his troops went through during the war, and while the facts are very interesting (I didn't even know about the Ghost Army) the story is bland. There is no showing, no getting into the character of Victor, no emotions. I don't think a typical middle grade reader will get past the first several pages of details. It's a non-fiction book trying to read like a fictional story.

Now, the code cracking. The book ends with a letter the reader is supposed to decode. It is a fun task, however it is very confusing. The logistics are simple, use the cryptowheel, but because several letters for each word are left out, you end up filling things in that make sense. My problem was when it didn't make sense. You uncover a clue about the (blank - blank) church. I searched the entire book through several times to find the name of any church or location that was mentioned that used a hyphenated word like in the clue. I found none.

However, I had enough of the clue figured out that I could solve the major question, but then what? I thought I had solved it and opened up the sealed part at the end. Nope! Big fail that the book doesn't tell you what to do after you decipher the letter. A hint would be nice, like use the other objects in the spy kit and pages from the book to figure out what city Victor left his sketchbook in? Solving the letter was just the beginning. That would have been nice to know. I thought opening the sealed part would lead to more puzzles that told me to use the spy kit, not the complete answers to everything.

So, I backtracked and started using the tools from the spy kit. Several things are obvious, others not so much. The kid figuring this thing out is going to have to be smart. Morse code and pictures aside, some stuff I couldn't figure out what to do with. It reminded me of the escape room game where you use clues to get a code to escape. For me, I had to read the first several page examples before I even knew what I was supposed to do and then go from there. So, I'm going to recommend this book to the history loving, analytical thinking middle grader (or even older). 3 stars!


  1. It can be a challenge to get the right balance between being too easy and too hard with puzzles, so I have some sympathy for that. The tell tell tell problem I see particularly in historical middle grade, and there's less excuse for it.

  2. I know a few kids who would love this book. The harder puzzles the better. Thanks for the heads-up on this one. I'll be sure to take a look at it myself.

  3. You've piqued my interest in this. While it might be too analytical, It might be a good read for those not given to reading novels. Thanks for the thoughts about this book.

  4. Never heard of a Ghost Army during WWII. You spent more time talking about trying to break the code, than you did on the story. It sounds like it may be meant for 13+ age group? Interesting idea for a story, though.

  5. I read this a while ago and really liked it. Thanks for the post.