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Spy on History: Victor Dowd and the World War II Ghost Army

Review

Spy on History: Victor Dowd and the World War II Ghost Army

Written by Enigma Alberti and Illustrated by Scott Wegener

Based on information from declassified government documents and interviews with men who were involved, SPY ON HISTORY: Victor Dowd and the World War II Ghost Army tells the true story of one thousand Americans tasked with deceiving one of the most powerful military forces in the world. The story begins one week after the infamous D-Day landings in Normandy and centers around the four major units that comprised the so-called Ghost Army. Only one of those units consisted of soldiers trained to fight, while the others were recruited for their prowess in art, radio operations and sound effects. This book follows these talented men across France and into Germany as they perform work vital to an Allied win.

"This interactivity was my favorite part of the book because it really pulls the reader in and forces them to pay attention to every detail."

Although the story of these men is the main focus of the book, readers are also asked to use special spy tools provided in an envelope at the beginning in order to solve the mystery of where Victor Dowd’s sketchbook was left when it came time for the men to head back home. The clues begin appearing immediately --- even before the story begins --- and the map provided at the front of the book helps make readers feel as though they are involved in the military strategizing that is taking place. A sealed section of pages at the end of the book not only reveals where the missing sketchbook may be found, but also explains all of the clues that were scattered throughout the book.

This interactivity was my favorite part of the book because it really pulls the reader in and forces them to pay attention to every detail. Participating in this scavenger hunt of sorts gave me a vested interest in what I was reading and made me take my time with each page, which led to me retaining much more of the information presented than I would have were it a normal book. That being said, another great aspect of this story is that, if interactivity is not your thing, you can skip the search for clues and just read! The hints do not distract from the main focus of the book at all.

Although that main focus is the Ghost Army, the authors do an excellent job of capturing the humanity and individuality of each person who made up the group. The men who were handpicked from art schools around the United States never gave up their passion, even as attacks from the Germans loomed. They drew portraits of families misplaced by the war, sometimes using the backs of receipts if they lacked proper paper. This passion for creativity and empathy for those affected by the fighting serve as a reminder of what these men were fighting for.

There are a lot of tensions in the book --- between art as passion and art as a war tactic, excitement over the Germans aiming their guns at the Ghost Army and fear at the army’s defenselessness --- which makes this book a true page-turner. This perfectly paced tale of bravery and deception is perfect for any lover of history and wannabe spy!  

Reviewed by Kat Baumgartner on January 30, 2018

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