City of Spies
written by Susan Kim and Laurence Klavan
illustrated by Pascal Dizin
Evelyn is a poor little rich girl. Sent off to live with an unknown aunt in New York City while her father honeymoons, she pours her heart into drawing comics. Zirconium Man and his sidekick Scooter always manage to save the day and go to baseball games and picnics, even if Evelyn doesn’t. But living with the “bohemian” Aunt Lia has its advantages—Evelyn befriends neighborhood kid Tony, and the two explore German Town together. With the whole world at war, even kids have to keep their eyes open; Nazi spies could be anywhere. However, when Evelyn and Tony stumble onto a Nazi plot, will anyone believe them?
It was the artwork that attracted me to this book. Gorgeous rich colors and stylized backgrounds work wonderfully to depict the World War II setting. The character designs are studies in angles. Round-cheeked children and square-jawed men are the order of the day, but Dizin manages to give each character a distinct personality. Evelyn’s comics within the book are drawn in a similar style but colored in a halftone-dot effect that evokes Golden Age superhero comics.
When focusing on Evelyn and Tony, City of Spies is a compelling, touching read. However, the book loses its way in subplots dealing with Aunt Lia and a frustrated German Town police officer. These adults are not nearly as interesting as Evelyn and Tony, and these side trips cause the book to drag slightly. The subplots are quickly over though, and when the story comes back to the kids, it picks up the pace to an exciting finale right out of one of Evelyn’s comics.
Adults who are fans of '40s style comics, tweens who like adventures, or anybody who is just looking for a good book should pick up City of Spies. Here’s hoping that we get to see more of Evelyn and Tony in the future.-- Merideth Jenson-Benjamin