KidsPost Summer Book Club: ‘Spy Runner’

|     Abby McGanney Nolan     |

ACCORDING to his teachers, 12-year-old Jake McCauley has trouble controlling his foolish impulses. Now that his life is turning into some sort of spy movie, who can blame him?

The year is 1953, and tensions between the United States (US) and the Soviet Union are rising. Jake lives with his mom near an Arizona Air Force base, and warnings about communism and its spies arrive regularly, including at school and on the radio.

When Jake’s mother rents their spare room to a mysterious man named Victor Shumin, Jake’s suspicions take over. Jake thinks Shumin may be a Russian spy and tries to find evidence in his suitcase. Jake also tries to listen in on Shumin.

And he worries that his mother is being too nice to this intruder; Jake feels loyal to his father, who went away 11 years ago to fight in World War II and never returned.

Spy Runner is written in short, fast-paced chapters, and author Eugene Yelchin keeps readers guessing along with Jake.

Jake isn’t sure, for example, whether he sees a man lurking outside in the dark, so we’re not sure either. Jake’s mother is acting strangely, and we don’t know why any more than Jake does. Has Jake read too many comic books about spies or is he actually being threatened?

Uncertainties like these are nicely matched by the black-and-white photo illustrations that Yelchin has created for the book. – The Washington Post

Spy Runner by Eugene Yelchin. – Henry Holt and Co (BYR)