Title: Phoebe the SpyPhoebe the Spy
Author: Judith Berry Griffin
Illustrator: Margot Tomes
Pages: 47
Recommended Ages: 8-10
Star Rating: ★★★★★

I love stories set during the American War for Independence…

The Story.

Phoebe’s father, Samuel Fraunces, owns the Queen’s Head Tavern in New York. Although not openly a patriot, he believes fiercely in the cause for freedom and allows patriots to hold meetings in his tavern.

It is through these connections that Mr. Fraunces first hears reports that an attempt will be made to assassinate General Washington – but no one knows how or by whom the assassination attempt will be made. Mr. Fraunces knows of only one person he trusts enough to spy on General Washington’s staff; his thirteen year old daughter Phoebe!

Phoebe agrees to take the job as General Washington’s housekeeper, but she worries about her real purpose there. What if she can’t discover who the traitor is? Or what if she finds him, but it’s too late?

Discussion.

Okay – loved this story! It reminded me strongly of Jean Fritz’s style, only without much of the sarcasm that Fritz often employs. Phoebe and her father have a strong relationship and it is on the basis of this relationship and the trust Phoebe and her father have in each other that she goes into a potentially dangerous situation in order to protect General Washington. In the interim between being hired and discovering the identity of the killer, Phoebe works hard at her job and uses cunning and wisdom as she scurries about listening for clues.

The style is perhaps less descriptive than it might have been, but this is because it is written for a beginner audience. The illustrations manage to be both sober and whimsical, which adds an extra dimension of atmosphere.

When the assassination attempt is discovered, one man says “by God!” [pg. 44]

Conclusion. Very good – children will love this story. Also consider Will You Sign Here, John Hancock? and And Then What Happened, Paul Revere?

Review © 2014 Laura Verret

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