52. City of Spies by Susasn Kim

City of Spies by Susan Kim & Laurence Klavan. Artwork by Pascal Dizin (Canada) - (US)

Pages: 172 pages
Ages: 11+
Finished: Mar. 20, 2010
First Published:Apr. 27, 2010
Publisher: First Second
Genre: children, graphic novel
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

Wind holding steady ... Standing by to begin descent ...

Acquired: Received a review copy the publisher.

Reason for Reading: The old-style drawings, and superhero story set in WWII intrigued me.

Summary: It is 1942, Evelyn's mother has died, her father is a busy man with better things to do than look after a child, so she now lives with her rich Bohemian partying artist aunt who hasn't a clue about children. Evelyn spends her spare time drawing comics about Zirconium Man and his sidekick Scooter who fight against Nazis and a black ooze-like monster. But in real life Evelyn meets the building janitor's son Tony and they find themselves on the track of real liveNazi spies in their own neighbourhood.

Comment: Wonderful story that brings back the olden days of comics. Starting with the art, one thing I really appreciated is that when Evelyn is drawing her comic it is presented in the old-style where you can see the colour is made up of little dots and the type is all caps. Then when the switch is made to the present story we've got a Tin-Tin style of art with modern colour techniques and a normal lowercase type with caps where they should be. These easily helps the reader know whether they are reading the main story or Evelyn's comic book and the device is just a lot of fun.

Growing up reading old Superman comics I found at garage sales I really had fun with Evelyn's comic story and when Zirconium Man and Scooter were surrounded be reporters I'll eat my hat if I didn't see Clark Kent and Jimmy Olsen in a few panes. Lots of humour along with olden by golden Superhero cheese.

The main story is full of adventure and humour as the daring children (age 10) set off following clues to what they are sure is a Nazi spy ring. Only they have a few false alarms causing the police and grown-ups not to believe them. One of these episodes is leaving me on the fence as to what age group I'd recommend the book for. The book is perfectly safe reading with only a tiny bit of innuendo that could be read by ages 10 and up assuming they have some idea as to WWII and the Nazis but there is one scene where a "spy" ends up being a man cheating on his wife and they show a few frames of a matronly-looking woman in bra and slip on a bed with man in a vest and boxers. There is also an artist sketching scene showing the back of a nude model and a side view which shows the slightest little bre*st bump. Parents should be aware of this to decide on the suitability for their own children. Older teens are not going to be terribly interested in the 10yo protagonists.

Other than the main spy story plot, there is also a back story of the aunt who develops from being an irresponsible child caretaker with a somewhat dubious past to someone who finds a wholesome new romance and learns that she really is up to the challenge of her niece's well-being.

A fun book, with quite a few story layers, humour and bold, colourful art. Recommended.


  1. I'll be on the lookout for this one - it sounds great!


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