Published: 3rd April 2017
Publisher: Puffin Books, Imprint of Penguin Random House Australia
Format: Paperback courtesy of the publisher
Life has never been easy for Antonio, but since the war began there are German soldiers on every corner, fearsome gangsters and the fascist police everywhere, and no one ever has enough to eat. But when Antonio decides to trust a man who has literally fallen from the sky, he leaps into an adventure that will change his life and maybe even the future of Sicily…
The Boy And The Spy is a fast paced, adventure seeking, dangerous ride that kids aged 8+ are going to love.
Set during World War Two, The Boy And The Spy is not only an educational tale about what the war was like for children in Italy, it’s also a great narrative that is sure to get kids, particularly boys, reading.
Full of danger, adventure seeking and of course a healthy dose of espionage, the narrative is an intense and quick read. In many ways it is similar to books like The Boy In The Stripped Pyjamas, for it offers a rare glimpse into history from the perspective of a child, but with a slightly more upbeat and possibly unrealistic ending.
The biggest problems for me with this particular novel were due to my own preconceptions of reality and books. Being a well-read women in her twenty-somethings, I’m not the target audience for this book, and thus I bring to the narrative a bunch of expectations if you will. A lot of these were adhered to in the novel – well paced, engaging characters and storyline etc – but some boxes weren’t so easy to tick off either. As an adult I was able to suspend my disbelief throughout most of the initial read of the narrative, but once I shut the covers for the last time, I was well aware that parts of the story didn’t gel for me as well as I’d have liked. The plausibility of a spy being so open with the child of the enemy seemed a bit out there for one, as did the a few of the time jumps and a few other elements that I can’t mention without giving spoilers.
That said, I did really enjoy this little book and was certainty taken for a whirlwind adventure with Antonio through war torn Italy. I really loved the parallels drawn between The Little Prince and this narrative, and the way Arena has captured the raw vulnerability of childhood and friendship and one’s place in the family was brilliant.
All in all I was really moved by Antonio’s plight and I’m really hoping that Felice Arena does write the companion novel/sequel that the end of this book hints at.
The Boy And The Spy is the perfect book for any child who dreams of being a spy. It is a courageous, intelligent and uplifting tale of a child finding his place in the world and the true meaning of family depicted against the harsh reality of war torn Italy.
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