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The Spy Catchers of Maple Hill

Review

The Spy Catchers of Maple Hill

Hazel Kaplantsky is a fifth-grader at Adelaide Switzer Elementary School in Maple Hill, Vermont in 1954 --- the time of the Red Scare, perpetuated by Senator McCarthy. Hazel has always been the smartest kid in her class --- until a new kid, Samuel Butler, arrives. At first there is animosity between them, but the two overcome the obstacles and become best friends.
 
Hazel wants to be a detective; she is anxious for a mystery to appear so she can solve it. So, when a mysterious man named Paul Jones comes to town, she is sure something is going on. She convinces Samuel to work with her to unravel the mystery.
 
This is a great story about the power of gossip and rumors, the fear of Communism, bullies, friendship and growing up.
 
Mr. Jones starts meeting with Mr. Short, the foreman at the Switzer Switch and Safe Factory. The factory is under investigation as a possible hotbed for Communist spies, just like the General Electric Plant in Schenectady, New York.   Hazel puts two and two together and thinks she has come up with four, but her desire to be a spy and to catch someone doing something wrong overshadows the facts.
 
This is a fictional tale, but author Megan Frazer Blakemore throws in some facts to set it in the era of the Red Scare. Of course she embellishes the story, but much of what she talks about really did happen. As Megan explains in her Author’s Note, the plant in Schenectady, NY really was under investigation for spy activity during this time period, but she made up the part about the Switzer Switch and Safe Factory. Also, since Hazel is great fan of mysteries, facts about the Nancy Drew mysteries are sprinkled throughout the text.
 
This is a great story about the power of gossip and rumors, the fear of Communism, bullies, friendship and growing up.

Reviewed by Christine Irvin on May 13, 2014

The Spy Catchers of Maple Hill
by Megan Frazer Blakemore

  • Publication Date: May 6, 2014
  • Genres: Mystery, Youth Fiction
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
  • ISBN-10: 1619633485
  • ISBN-13: 9781619633483