Middle Grades Book Review: Mary Bowser and the Civil War Spy Ring by Enigma Alberti
Mary Bowser and the Civil War Spy Ring
Series: Spy on History #2
Author: Enigma Alberti
Illustrator: Tony Cliff
Published: April 2, 2019
Reviewed By: Cristina
Your Mission: Find Mary’s secret diary using spycraft stools to uncover hidden codes!
It’s a true story of bravery: Mary Bowser was an African American spy for the Union who worked as a maid in the mansion of Confederate Jefferson Davis. From hair-raising close calls when she almost gets caught to how she uses her photographic memory to “steal” top secret documents. Mary’s story reads like a gripping novel.
It’s a mystery to solve: There are clues embedded in the story’s text and illustrations, and Spycraft materials—including a replica Civil War cipher wheel—come in an envelope at the beginning of the book. Use both to discover what happened to Mary Bowser’s secret diary.
What would you do if you had the opportunity to be a spy where it would really matter? Your skills: a photographic memory, ability to read, and blending into the background. If you succeed, your people have a chance at freedom. If you fail, you’ll be hung. Are you in?
This book is a historical fiction with a fun interactive spy riddle to solve as well. A reader can just enjoy the story, or they can try to solve the case that’s embedded in the real story. Mary Bowser was a real person. She was a free African-American, but went undercover as a maid in Jefferson Davis’s mansion to spy for the Union. Because no person of color was expected to be able to read at that time in the South, Mary was able to read many valuable documents in Davis’s office while she dusted or polished lamps. She had to pretend to be illiterate and a little slow to avoid suspicion. It was a job filled with danger, but Mary proved to be invaluable to the Union. She was able to get critical information to the Union army and it helped save lives and win battles.
This book is written in a very engaging style. Lots of action, a few narrow misses that have you holding your breath, and insights into what the Civil War was like for the non-soldiers who still wanted to help fight for freedom and the Union. The interactive riddle–a search for Mary’s secret diary–is engaging as well. There is help at the back of the book if the reader gets too frustrated, but it’s fun to try and find the diary without any assistance. Spy on History is a series, so if historical fiction sounds appealing, come to the library to choose your spy adventure!
Short Story Sunday: Down with Frogs by Eden Gruger
Down With Frogs
Author: Eden Gruger
Narrator: Bridget Thomas
Published on Audio: March 13, 2023
Audiobook: 1 hour 38 minutes
Reviewed By: Jessica
Dates Read: May 5-7, 2023
Jessica’s Rating: 4 stars
It has always been said Princess’ have to kiss a lot frogs before they find their Prince…so it makes sense that sometimes they might feel like giving up on love.
From awkward first meetings, dreadful dinners, to who should do the dusting, and sexual mishaps dating is a minefield.
The big question is will we learn from our mistakes or make them all over again?
Whether you are happily settled, or still looking, these laugh out loud, always candid, occasionally tragic tales will delight you.
This is a short book with a series of short stories that is humorous that shows the dating scene with what we women go through with men! We have 14 short stories, that range in length. I’m sure every female reader/listener will find a favorite story. I enjoyed one of the longer ones the most: Day Out at the STI Clinic. Some of the shorter stories are basically lists, which would work better on paper than audio.
If you have ever dated, are currently dating, or even given up on dating, give this short audiobook a listen! You should enjoy these stories and might even laugh some too!
The narrator is Bridget Thomas and she did a good job with her narration!
Many thanks to the author Eden Gruger for sending me an audio copy to listen to through Spotify. I enjoyed it!
Book Review: Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
Where the Sidewalk Ends
Author: Shel Silverstein
Reviewed By: Cristina
Come in… for where the sidewalk ends, Shel Silverstein’s world begins.
Shel Silverstein, the New York Times bestselling author of The Giving Tree, A Light in the Attic, Falling Up, and Every Thing On It, has created a poetry collection that is outrageously funny and deeply profound.
You’ll meet a boy who turns into a TV set, and a girl who eats a whale. The Unicorn and the Bloath live there, and so does Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout who will not take the garbage out. It is a place where you wash your shadow and plant diamond gardens, a place where shoes fly, sisters are auctioned off, and crocodiles go to the dentist.
Shel Silverstein’s masterful collection of poems and drawings stretches the bounds of imagination and will be cherished by readers of all ages.
Poetry often gets overlooked for young readers, but it can be a great stepping stone from picture books to chapter books, or comprehension practice for older readers. And, you know, poetry can just be fun to read!
Shel Silverstein is a very popular poet for children. This happens to be my favorite collection of his works. With poems about ice cream, pirates, doing chores, going to school, Silverstein’s poems are something children can relate to in their own lives. Some of them are just plain silly, some are very thoughtful, and some have a little lesson in them. He also draws illustrations to go with them. (The crocodile in the dentist chair is one of my favorites!) If your reader is thinking they are getting “too old” for bedtime stories, or you don’t have time for a whole book or chapter of something, try reading a poem together instead. This is a great collection to get them hooked on poetry!