All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: The Boy And The Spy by Felice Arena

on April 24, 2017

The Boy And The Spy
Felice Arena
Puffin Books
2017, 159p
Copy courtesy of Penguin Books AUS

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

Life has never been easy for Antonio, but since the war began there are German soldiers on every corner, fearsome gangsters and the fascist police everywhere, and no one ever has enough to eat. But when Antonio decides to trust a man who has literally fallen from the sky, he leaps into an adventure that will change his life and maybe even the future of Sicily…

Lately I’ve been trying to find books for my oldest son to read, who is 8. He’s an advanced reader with good comprehension but he also bores easily so he needs books that are either funny (and kind of silly) or something that is quite quick and has some action in it. It’s been a bit hit and miss with getting him into books – I think in theory he would like to be a reader but in reality it seems like it’s really more of an option when the devices are put away. To be honest, I’ve heard all I can stand of Dan TDM narrating Minecraft videos so I’m really starting to try and push “reading time” where the kids have to be either reading or drawing, some sort of activity not revolving around gaming. It’s a bit of a balance because I also want them to enjoy reading and not feel as though they are forced to do it (which yes, I know, they are).

So when I got this book, I thought it might be a good choice. My husband’s parents both hail from Italy, Sicily in particular which is the setting of this book. My sons attend a very multicultural school where a huge majority of the children have parents or were even themselves, born in another country. Hunter has definitely really embraced his half Italian side, which gives him something in common with a lot of his friends and he asks a lot of questions about the language, the location, the food etc. He likes to tell people he’s half Italian and is always super impressed when he finds things that are Italian. I can get him to eat certain food by telling him it’s Italian and he prefers to identify with the Italian side on things like multicultural day, where you come dressed in traditional cultural clothing or in the colours of the flag. I honestly hope that this interest continues as he gets older – there’s a lot of interesting things for him to learn and he’s also eligible for dual citizenship, should he choose to pursue this at a later date.

But back to the book, which is about a young boy named Antonio who lives on the island of Sicily with his mother and who, at the beginning of the book, is being chased by German soldiers for a drawing he has done of Hitler  and Mussolini. He makes a quick decision to jump off a cliff, an almost unsurvivable drop and in doing so meets an American spy holed up in a cave and ends up becoming a sort of junior spy himself, getting information to the American (named Chris) and then helping him escape the cave and the local area. It’s quite action packed and there’s a lot of stuff going on – Antonio’s mother is sick, he meets an interesting girl, he’s caught up in plenty of dangerous stuff and there’s potential for a lot of stuff to go wrong. I think a lot of kids would find it very exciting to be “included” in such things….Antonio is in the thick of things from the very beginning and there are numerous ways in which he showcases the ability to think quickly (and ahead) in order to get the information that he wants. He also does end up needing help in several instances and there are a few times where he seems to get lucky but it all helps the story keep moving forward.

Not going to lie, for adults there’s definitely a few things that mean you have to really put aside any disbelief and just go with it and don’t ask questions about it. Whilst I could do this, I was pretty disappointed in the end, which involved a skip ahead in time, a glossing over of quite a lot and a very unlikely event – even if it did happen, the ease with which it occurred seemed incredibly optimistic. I’d imagine that there would’ve been a lot of red tape and protocol and restrictions – a war was just ending after all. It made me think about the importance of the happy ending, particularly at this stage in a child’s developmental reading. Hunter recently watched a kids movie that involved the death of a dog and he was distraught about it. The dog was only a peripheral character, glimpsed a few times throughout the movie but it’s the one thing that ended up sticking in his mind from the whole plot. I think that to give them closure and resolution is probably important in order for them to want to keep reading and try other stories. If they feel that the characters they’re connecting with are going to be left in limbo or suffering at the end it might be enough to turn them off – they have all their adulthood to deal with that. So in a way whilst I don’t have a problem with the ending, I think it needed a bit more to flesh it out.

I enjoyed this and perhaps my criticisms come from adult eyes, I’m not sure. But I just think there were a few instances where I would’ve liked some more details. Hopefully I can convince Hunter to read it – it might give him a bit of an idea of what life was like for his grandparents before they left there as young people and came to Australia and I’d like to hear what he thinks about the ending as well.


Book #70 of 2017


2 responses to “Review: The Boy And The Spy by Felice Arena

  1. soph says:


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