Saturday, June 15, 2013

Summer + Books

Beach, mountains, or my own back yard, my favorite summer spot is a comfortable chaise, chair, or swing, with a stack of good books in reach—always. I’m just back from the beach, rested and ready to share the books I enjoyed the most with you.

Do undercover agents intrigue you? Was Harriet the Spy a favorite book? Are you a James Bond fan? Do you ever wonder about ordinary people waiting for a bus or standing in a grocery line? (I do.) Could they be spies? For those who share your home AND your attraction to suspense (especially ages 8-12), hide this book and leave some clues.

IN DISGUISE! Undercover with Real Women Spies by Ryan Ann Hunter, Beyond Words/Aladdin 2013.
For starters, the author is not what she seems to be. Try to set up a meeting with Ryan Ann Hunter. She can’t come. She doesn’t exist. Ryan Ann Hunter is two people, Elizabeth G. Macalaster and Pamela D. Greenwood who write together under a pen name.
This book was first issued ten years ago but spy tales didn’t end when the authors finished their manuscript. With the release of formerly classified files, new stories emerged. Ryan Ann added more women spies and daring deeds. This edition spans 300 years and covers 30 brave women, including a few who might have stood next to you on an elevator. Ryan Ann Hunter may be a pen name, but the authors’ subjects really lived and some still do.
Readers will meet Anna Smith Strong who lived during the American Revolution and used her laundry as a signal. During the Civil War Mary Bowser was a freed slave whose photographic memory and her position as a servant in the Richmond home of President Jefferson Davis enabled her to pass information about troop strength and war strategy to other Union spies. More recently, Lindsay Moran worked doggedly to achieve her goal to join the CIA. She later resigned and wrote a book, Blowing My Cover: My Life as a CIA Spy. Her book and an email response to the Pam Greenwood half of Ryan Ann Hunter, add immediacy to this spellbinding collection of stories about women secret agents.            

Puzzles and trivia are scattered throughout the pages plus some tips about how to hide in plain sight. I liked the creative ways spies delivered messages and maps long before the aid of high tech. Here are a few: a wax head, a skytale (rhymes with Italy—you look it up) and a few hollowed out eggs in a market basket. How many eggs must be broken to make an omelet or find the secret message? Breakfast must have been an adventure.

Well researched, with notes, a bibliography, and interviews, In Disguise! could open a new career path for readers. It has for me. Right there on page 124 a “Spy Files” note leaped right out at me. “When spies break into a building to plant a bug, they sometimes take their own dust along to replace the dust they may disturb on a table, desk, or windowsill.”


Is dust in short supply?  With endless resources, I am eager to become a dust supplier to secret agents. For contact information look under a jar of pickles shelved among the cake mixes. Only you will know it’s been misplaced for a reason. (Note: I think this is called a dead drop.)



Hillview School Library