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The Night Spies

by Kathy Kacer

In The Night Spies, Gabi, her cousin Max, and her mother are forced into hiding in 1944 by increasingly murderous Nazi activity in their native Czechoslovakia. Mr. Kos, a sympathetic former employee, gives the family refuge in his barn, where they must sit silently during daylight hours in a tiny alcove in the hayloft. After several weeks of this cramped existence, Max and Gabi sneak out at night to wander in the neighbouring forest, where they discover a Nazi work gang building a road. Joined by Mr. Kos’s granddaughter, Eva, the children continue their nightly spying visits and eventually are able to pass along crucial information to resistance fighters living in the woods. The story ends in May 1945, with the defeated Nazis leaving town and the family finally safe.

A sequel of sorts, this novel picks up where author Kathy Kacer’s first book, Gabi’s Dresser, left off. (Alert readers will notice some minor differences between what happens in this story and the original novel’s epilogue.) Kacer bases this story, like its predecessor, on her mother’s real life, though with some changes, and this intersection of truth and fiction makes the story compelling and poignant.

Kacer’s style has become more sophisticated here, producing a more textured narrative and more complex characters, including several who are morally ambiguous. Neatly presenting the complexity of the situation and of human nature to audiences aged 8 to 11, the narrative is simple but never simplistic. The photographs, Second World War history, and detailed chronology that Kacer includes give readers a helpful context for understanding the narrative, and make the book an excellent educational tool as well as an engaging read.