Monday, July 6, 2015

NONFICTION MONDAY: Top Secret Files Reviews


Poison dart umbrellas, lipstick pistols, and cyanide guns were all a part of the arsenal of tools used by spies of the Soviet KGB, American CIA, and British MI6, but you won't learn that in your history books! Learn the true stories of the Cold War and how spies used listening devices planted in live cats and wristwatch cameras. Discover how East Germans tried to ride zip lines to freedom, while the Cambridge Four infiltrated Britain and master spy catchers like Charles Elwell were celebrated. Then make your own secret codes and practice sending shoe messages. It’s all part of the true stories from the Top Secret Files: The Cold War. Take a look if you dare, but be careful! Some secrets are meant to stay hidden... 


This book was thoroughly engaging with great stories and activities for middle grade readers.  The length of the book makes it ideal for readers who need to read a chapter book but who don't want a real long one. The fact that the stories are fascinating and true make it all the more enjoyable.  If history textbooks were written and presented more like this, students would undoubtedly be more willing to read them.  I appreciated the selection of different stories that the author shared as they highlight both sides of the Cold War.  Stories of spies who fooled others for decades, spies who couldn't support their country anymore and became double agents, special missions, and awesome tools and weapons used by the different agencies.  The story of a famous magician training agents on the use of illusion and deception was intriguing, especially since he never told anyone about it.  The activities included in the book are fabulous.  Simple enough that most children can find the needed supplies but intriguing enough for readers to be interested in doing them.  A fun new series that I can heartily recommend.



Julius Caesar was kidnapped by pirates and Sir Frances Drake was both a swashbuckler and a knight, plundering ships in the name of the British Crown, but you won't learn that in your history books! Discover the truth about Anne Bonny, the Irish woman who was a true Pirate of the Caribbean, the secrets of Calico Jack and Blackbeard, and how kung fu monks were hired to try to fight off pirates. Then learn how to talk like a pirate and make a buried treasure map for your friends. It’s all part of the true stories from the Top Secret Files: Pirates and Buried Treasure. Take a look if you dare, but be careful! Some secrets are meant to stay hidden...


I've long known that the pirate image that Hollywood has perpetuated for years is far from truthful.  I really liked how this book presents the information here in straightforward factual style, making it clear that life as a pirate was far from romantic.  In fact it was a dirty, difficult lifestyle that involved a lot of sickness and death.  I learned a lot about different pirates, some of the mysteries surrounding them, and what life as a pirate was really like.  For example, I didn't know that Blackbeard wasn't as bloodthirsty as I'd always thought, that he preferred to frighten people into submission.  Don't worry though, there is plenty of treasure mentioned throughout.  The activities presented for kids to do include: creating your own treasure map, making sea biscuits, and making a catapult.  I love these activities because they are relatively simple, but sound like lots of fun. This book provides an interesting introduction to a popular topic.

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