________________ CM . . . . Volume VIII Number 20 . . . . June 6, 2002

cover Camp X.

Eric Walters.
Toronto, Penguin Canada/Viking, 2002.
233 pp., cloth, $22.99.
ISBN 0-670-91101-1.

Subject Heading:
World War, 1939-1945-Secret service-Canada-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 5-8 / Ages 10-13.

Review by Dave Jenkinson.

**** /4


"DROP YOUR GUNS!" one of the men screamed.

"Our guns. . . they're just toys," I stammered. "Just toys!"

"Now!" screamed the second man.

I dropped my toy rifle to the ground, as did Jack. I looked at my brother and his face reflected the terror I was feeling. Who were these men and what did they want with us?

With books like The Hydrofoil Mystery and The Money Pit Mystery, Walters has amply demonstrated his ability to write fast-paced, engaging adventure-filled mystery stories, and middle school readers, especially males, will not be disappointed by Camp X. During World War II, George Braun, almost 12 and the story's narrator, and his 14-year-old brother, Jack, have recently moved to Whitby, Ontario, with their mother while their father is serving with the Canadian army in Africa. Unable to operate the family farm on her own, the boys' mother had taken a job at D.I.L. (Defense Industries Limited), a gigantic munitions factory. With their mother at work and their father away, the boys have lots of unsupervised time to kill, and, not surprisingly, they get into trouble. While playing "Nazis and Allies," the boys accidentally stumble into a restricted military area, the title's Camp X, which they later come to learn is a camp for training spies. Ordered to stay away, the boys, whose curiosity has been piqued, naturally do the exact opposite but are again captured and are forced to sign a secrecy oath under the Official Secrets Act. Possessing most active imaginations, the brothers concoct a scenario in which German spies will attempt to sabotage the munitions factory in which their mother works. Naturally, anyone with a German sounding name becomes one of their suspects. Actually, the boys are more prescient than they realize, and they are taken captive by a group of German agents who intend not only to attack the D.I.L. plant but also a nearby German P.O.W. camp. Both of these attacks, however, are merely diversions because their real goal is Camp X and the assassination of the training school's leader, Sir William Stephenson. Of course, the brothers play a major and believable role in thwarting these plans.

     The book's historical setting is presented in broad strokes, but Walters drops in little period bits via references to things such as rationing or by using terms like "zombie"or "war saving stamps" as gentle reminders to readers that the book's action is not occurring in the present. A closing "Author's Note" provides brief information about the actual Camp X, a spy school that was established Dec 6, 1941, on a site in what is present day Whitby, Ontario. As Walters explains, "The character Little Bill in my novel is a portrayal of [Sir William] Stephenson" who headed up the camp.

Highly recommended.

Dave Jenkinson teaches courses in children's and YA literature at the Faculty of Education, the University of Manitoba.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364