Book Review: Ultra Hush-Hush

Reading Level

Ages 9-12

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This is a particularly timely release, given that the U.S., Britain, and other countries are now again at war. The book is Ultra Hush-Hush, by Stephen Shapiro and Tina Forrester, and the subject is espionage and special missions during World War II. It is the first book in a new series called Outwitting the Enemy: Stories from the Second World War.

The authors hit the usual hit points, like the breaking of the German and Japanese codes and the phony intelligence that British and American spies "fed" the Germans in order to convince them that the troops landing on Normany beaches on June 6, 1944, were only a diversion for the "real" invasion that was coming elsewhere. And the authors also illuminate what for many students of history might be new information: that the Germans were able to intercept private conversations between British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, from the beginnings of the war until late 1944!

The book also includes profiles of some of the most successful spies of the war--on both sides. Their stories are told in an entertaining fashion, but I'm sure the authors would say that they were just reporting what really happened and that nonfiction sometimes yields more fascinating and unbelievable events than fiction.

Like any good book for younger readers, this one explains complicated or big words and provides a great many maps, pictures, timelines, and the like, in order to put the words in more of a historical perspective. The artwork, by David Craig, is especially well done.

The authors also include the U.S.'s Navajo code talkers, a subject that has received a renewed interest in recent years.

If you're looking for an in-depth study of Enigma or D-Day or other traditional WWII subjects, then this is not the book you want. But that is not this book's purpose. If you want a good, all-around, solid portrayal of an often overlooked part of the fearsome battles of World War II, then this is the book you want. It is well written, well researched, well illustrated, and well worth the time you will invest in reading it, no matter how old you are.

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