Friday, June 11, 2010

Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys: Better Yet, CITY OF SPIES!

How long has it been since you read the Hardy Boys books? (Or if you were a Nancy Drew reader, did you ever cross the line to the earlier series?) It's easy to forget that this classic "boys' mystery series" included at least three titles that involved cracking espionage rings, "spy rings," and that both series include grave doubts about people who speak with a "foreign" accent -- especially German.

Now Susan Kim and Laurence Klavan have out-scooped both series with CITY OF SPIES, a graphic novel drawn by Pascal Dizin. Set in 1942 New York, it features an almost abandoned young girl named Evelyn, sent there to live for the summer with her aunt Lia. Lia is an artist whose drawings, paintings, and parties are far more important to her than the lonely girl who's been dumped in the fancy apartment with her, and Evelyn's sole consolation is her own drawings ... that is, the comics that she's creating. They feature Zirconium Man and his intrepid girl assistant Scooter.

Dark disasters reinforce the misery that Evelyn's in, but she does find one friend, a boy her age in the posh building. The failures of their first adventures together somehow don't deter them from finding a real Nazi plot in progress. How can they convince the adults that they're serious?

Dizon's drawings catch the atmosphere of 1940s comic books, updated to today's standards of crisp outlines and brilliant color, and with clever twists of the pen to suggest the jazzy hairstyles, clothing, even boozy get-togethers of the era. And the dialogue and plot shifts crafted by Kim and Klavan work smoothly, even with the shift of language needed to call up the war era.

Remember how you've kicked yourself for not keeping your old Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys books? And the zillions of dollars you think that they'd be worth today?

Now's your chance to make up for that juvenile lack of foresight. "First Second," and imprint of New York's Roaring Brook Press, have brought out this great 171-page book through all the usual outlets and bookstores. Grab or order your copy now. Inside the back cover, there's even an order page for "Hey Kids -- Real Spy Gadgets from WWII!!!" (Be sure to read the fine print.)

Gotta love it. I'm going to need a lot of copies for the kids and grown kids that need this fresh taste of heroic action and brightly determined crime-solving kids.

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