Janeczko, P. B. (2010). The dark game: true spy stories. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press.
Plot Summary: From George Washington’s intelligence network to invisible ink and code talkers, the art of espionage is something that has been around for centuries. These true spy stories explain how George Washington out-spied the British during the Revolutionary War, the role of many female spies during the Civil War, and even the cyber espionage of today. Packed with mystery and intrigue, these historical accounts of intelligence gathering is full of special people, secret missions, and unsuspecting traitors who dared to risk it all playing this dark game of espionage.
Critical Analysis: Janeczko’s The Dark Game does an excellent job of providing true accounts and details of spy stories starting with George Washington and the Revolutionary War to the cyber espionage of today. Kelly McGorray from School Library Journal writes, “Each chapter covers a historical era and chronicles the maturation of spying, while primary-source photographs are interspersed throughout, lending an authentic feel to each section.” Not only does Janeczko’s book offer great historical accounts, but it also presents these true spy stories in an intriguing and understandable way to children and young adults. According to Gillian Engberg from Booklist, “A few portraits and reproductions of code charts illustrate, but this title relies mostly on Janeczko's graceful, exciting storytelling to draw kids' interest.” Heidi Hauser Green from Children’s Literature also agrees with Engberg when she writes, “…a series of captivating profiles and insights that explains elements of history neglected by typical school curricula. Janeczko's skills as a storyteller shine in his accounts of George Washington's establishment of an intelligence community and Benjamin Franklin's efforts on behalf of the rebel cause.” Filled with exciting history, intrigue, and dark secrets, Janeczko collection of true spy stories will satisfy readers who love the art of espionage.
One important aspect to mention about Janeczko’s, The Dark Game, is the writing style of the author. In his book, Janeczko not only uses facts but also writes these true accounts as an unfolding story. In one example, Janeczko writes, “The group’s most significant decision came when it named George Washington as the director of the fledgling intelligence. So the man who would become the ‘father of our country’ can also be considered the father of American espionage” (p. 7). His writing flows from one account to another and gives details about how the spies in the book carried out their secret intelligence gathering. For example, Janeczko writes, “If Culper Sr. saw a black petticoat hanging from the line, he knew that Caleb Brewster, a rough and adventuresome Patriot, had arrived in his whaleboat and was waiting to carry any intelligence across the Devil’s Belt (now known as Long Island South) to Tallmadge Connecticut” (p.13).
In addition to great storytelling, Janeczko also formatted his book in a very appealing and organized way. The book is told in chronological order from George Washington’s role in the Revolutionary War to the cyber espionage of today. Janeczko also provides subtitled sections that showcase some of the different forms of espionage that were used, such as “From Clothes Lines to Balloons” (p.58) and “Invisible Ink” (36). Others special parts of the book include mini spy-related biographies of important people such as “Benjamin Franklin (p. 18), “Elizabeth Van Lew” (p.44), and “Rose O’Neale Greenhow” (p.64). There are also sections examining the roles of other key groups such as “African Americans” (p.78) and the “Choctaw Code Talkers” (p. 118). The end of the book also includes a “Source Notes” (p. 232) section as well as a full bibliography starting on page 238.
Readers who enjoy books like The Dark Game will also enjoy Behind Rebel Lines: The Incredible Story of Emma Edmonds, Civil War Spy by Seymour Reit and Spies of Mississippi: The True Story of the Spy Network that Tried to Destroy the Civil Right Movement by Rick Bowers. Recommended for grades 6 and up.
Bowers, Rick. (2010). Spies of Mississippi: The True Story of the Spy Network That Tried to Destroy the Civil Rights Movement.Washington, DC: National Geographic.
Engberg, Gillian. (2010, Sept. 15). Best known for his award-winning poetry titles, Janeczko has a long-held fascination with the shadowy world of espionage. [Review of the book The Dark Game, written by Paul B. Janeczko]. Booklist. Books in Print. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.twu.edu:3959/DetailedView.aspx?hreciid=|29630119|28685628&mc=USA#
Green, Heidi H. (2010). Award-winning poet Paul Janeczko turns his attention to espionage in this thrilling expose. [Review of the book The Dark Game, written by Paul B. Janeczko]. Children’s Literature. Children’s Literature Comprehensive Database. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.twu.edu:4529/index.php/jbookdetail/jqbookdetail?page=1&pos=3&isbn=9780763629151
McGorray, Kelly. (2010, Aug. 1). Since the Revolutionary War, espionage has created fascinating scenarios. [Review of the book The Dark Game, written by Paul B. Janeczko]. School Library Journal. Books in Print. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.twu.edu:3959/DetailedView.aspx?hreciid=|29630119|28685628&mc=USA#
Reit, Seymour. (2001). Behind Rebel Lines: The Incredible Story of Emma Edmonds, Civil War Spy. San Diego, CA: Harcourt.