CM . . .
. Volume XXIV Number 28. . . .March 23, 2018
Family of Spies.
Winnipeg, MB: Yellow Dog/Great Plains, April, 2018.
254 pp., trade pbk., $11.95.
Grades 4 and up / Ages 9 and up.
Review by Cate Carlyle.
The moment his hand touched the picture, the room dimmed. His desk slowly faded.
“It’s happening again,” he mumbled.
Goosebumps raced across his arms as his desk completely disappeared, revealing a table and chairs. His stark white bedroom wall shifted and transformed into one that was butter yellow with white trim. An ancient looking wooden statue of an Asian man quickly solidified, replacing the mirror that once hung above his now vanished desk.
He had to be hallucinating.
He blinked. The wooden statue remained.
Soft classical music and clinking silverware mixed with voices, French voices. Beyond the table, he could see shadows, but it was too hazy to make out details. He scrunched his eyelids tightly closed.
He must be going crazy.
“Ellie do you see this?”
Please wake up!
Ford counted to three and opened his eyes. The fog dissipated and an entire fancy restaurant emerged out of it. A slender crystal vase, holding a red rose sat at every fine linen draped table, and the men and women who filled the restaurant didn’t look like anyone he had ever seen. At least not in real life. The women wore either dresses or business suits with long skirts and all wore a hat, tipped to the side. Many even wore elbow-length gloves. Every single man had a dark suit and a Fedora hat. Their ties looked super tight. Ford pulled at the neck of his shirt. Not one pair of jeans in sight. They looked like they walked off a 1940s Hollywood movie set.
What starts out as a normal family trip to Paris quickly becomes very abnormal for Ford, his older brother Gavin and his cousin Ellie. While Ford loves his gregarious cousin and can tolerate his brother most of the time, the two are brilliant and often make Ford feel like an inadequate outsider. But all that changes when Ford encounters the contents of his namesake’s, Edward Hugh Crawford’s, suitcase from World War II. Since his great grandfather Edward was in Paris during the war and the suitcase contains letters, photos and postcards from that time, Ford’s mother brings the case along on their trip with the intention of researching Edward’s role in the war in an attempt to verify whether he was, in fact, a colleague of famous Canadian spy William Stephenson.
The three youth soon discover that, when Ford touches an item in the suitcase, his world fades and he is transported back in time to WWII era Paris where he can see and hear his great grandfather and his fellow spies. Unsure what is happening and how to handle the situation, the three visit Mme Bellarose, a local psychic, who declares that Ford is also clairvoyant and that it is their destiny “to journey through the past, and to right a wrong.” While Ford’s gift enables the trio to begin to unravel the mystery of their great grandfather’s dealings in Paris in the 1940s, they soon find that they are being followed, that not everyone can be trusted and that all documentation from that time, both in the library and online, is either classified or destroyed.
Through a process of trial and error, Ford realizes that he can only travel back in time once for each document, that if he describes what he is seeing then Gavin and Ellie can transcribe what is happening, and that his travels severely deplete him both emotionally and physically. Ford, Gavin and Ellie are able to pursue their quest without their parents knowing, and this brings the two somewhat estranged brothers closer together. The quest is complete when the final document transports Ford back to a time when Edward is reunited with two of his former spies who were killed due to a double agent. Thanks to Ford, Edward is finally able to make amends and apologize for his role in their deaths.
Family of Spies will grip readers from the first page and will not let go. While Carmichael has done her research and briefly ventures into the scientific realm of time travel and psychic ability, Family of Spies forces readers to suspend their disbelief and just enjoy a really good story. Told in the third person, this time travel tale successfully immerses readers in the City of Lights during both the 21st century and WWII, highlighting the incredible food, culture, language, history and architecture. The WWII era scenes, complete with marching Nazi troops and flapping swastika flags, are replete with vivid description that captures all of the senses. Chock full of action, suspense, history and intrigue, Family of Spies is a must-read with something for everyone!
Cate Carlyle, a librarian at Mount Saint Vincent University and a former elementary school teacher librarian, currently resides in Halifax, NS. She frequently travels to Paris, but never back in time.
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