The Center for Children's Books


Graduate School of Library and Information Science
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Spy Tales: True and Fictional Accounts of Espionage - February 2015

Selected and annotated by Michelle Biwer

This list of spy stories includes both fiction and nonfiction titles, in historical and modern settings, and even a few fantastical takes on the genre.


Avi. Sophia’s War: A Tale of the Revolution. Beach Lane/Simon, 2012. 310p.  Gr. 6-9.
After witnessing the cruel hanging of a “rebel spy” and the imprisonment of her Patriot brother, Sophia Calderwood is determined to help the Patriot cause in any way possible. Recruited as a spy in British military headquarters, Sophia discovers an American general’s treasonous plan that could win the Revolution for the British.

Bascomb, Neil. The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World’s Most Notorious Nazi. Levine/Scholastic, 2013.245p. Gr. 6-10.
While many of the most prominent Nazis were brought to trial following the end of World War II, others—such as Adolph Eichmann—fled. Eichmann’s notorious crimes against humanity included overseeing the transportation of millions of Jewish people to Nazi death camps. In this work of nonfiction, Bascomb reconstructs the successful 1960 Israeli Mossad attempt to apprehend Eichmann.

Becker, Helaine. Dirk Daring: Secret Agent. Orca, 2014. 196p. Gr. 4-6.
In this light-hearted take on the spy genre, Darren Dirkowitz creates a secret identity for himself as the superspy Dirk Daring, a secret identity so secret that it is, in fact, not real. When Darren’s older stepbrother Jason steals his special “spy” journal and threatens to expose the contents to their entire school, Darren agrees to do Jason’s bidding and spy on kids at school, finally using the secret agent skills he has dreamed about for so long.

Benway, Robin. Also Known As. Walker, 2013. 308p. Gr. 7-10.
Spying is the family business for the Silver family, and teenage Maggie is no exception. She trained as a lockpicker from a young age, and traveling around the world with her professional spy parents is all Maggie has ever known. When her next mission is to attend a “normal” high school and get close to a fellow classmate whose father poses a threat to her spy organization, Maggie finds that high school may be her most challenging mission yet.

Bowers, Rick. Spies of Mississippi: The True Story of the Spy Network That Tried to Destroy the Civil Rights Movement. National Geographic, 2010. 120p. Gr. 6-10.
In 1956, the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission was formed with the purpose of investigating and sabotaging pro-integration activists. Bowers chronicles the creation and demise of this clandestine organization dedicated to segregation and the destruction of the Civil Rights Movement.

Carriger, Gail. Etiquette & Espionage. Little, 2013. 343p. Gr. 9-12.
Sent off to finishing school by her mother, Sophronia is expected to learn Victorian etiquette so that she will finally behave like a lady. That being the case, she is sure her mother has no idea that Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality also teaches girls the spy trade. When the Academy is attacked, Sophronia and her fellow students must use their newfound skills to protect themselves and discover the perpetrators in this steampunk spy novel.

Gibbs, Stuart. Spy School. Simon, 2012. 291p. Gr. 4-7.
Fulfilling every middle schooler’s dreams, twelve-year-old Ben Ripley is asked to join the CIA’s prestigious Academy of Espionage, although it turns out his spy skills are not really up to par. Ben is determined to convince his savvier peers that he belongs by catching the traitorous double agent who is working in the Academy in this humorous take on boarding school spy stories.

Jones, Carrie. Sarah Emma Edmonds Was a Great Pretender: The True Story of a Civil War Spy; illus. by Mark Oldroyd. Carolrhoda, 2011. 32p. 6-10 yrs.
Soon after the Civil War began, Sarah Edmonds enlisted with the Union army as a man named Frank Thompson and fought as a soldier before she was recruited to work as a spy. Jones focuses on Edmonds’ time as a Union spy and the various disguises she assumed to complete this work.

LaFevers, Robin. Grave Mercy. Houghton, 2012. 549p. Gr. 9-12.
Rescued by a priest from an arranged marriage, Ismae is brought to the convent of St. Mortain in fifteenth-century Brittany where she is expected to serve the god of death. Ismae is the incredibly dangerous and appealing combination of nun/spy/assassin that you have been waiting to read about.

Lee, Y.S. The Agency: A Spy in the House. Candlewick, 2010. 335p. Gr. 7-10.
Rescued by Anne Treleaven, the apparent headmistress of a Victorian school of manners for young women, twelve-year old Mary Quinn is invited to undergo a very different sort of schooling altogether. Miss Treleaven secretly runs a spy ring from inside the school, and assigns Mary her first mission: to infiltrate the home of a merchant accused of smuggling artifacts by posing as a companion to the merchant’s daughter.

Meloy, Maile. The Apothecary; illus. by Ian Shoenherr. Putnam, 2011. 353p. Gr. 6-9.
In 1952, during the midst of the Red Scare, Jane Scott and her family are forced to move from Los Angeles to London after they are accused of having Communist ties. Once in London, Jane starts attending a strange school and meets a boy named Benjamin, whose father is protecting dangerous secrets. After Benjamin’s father disappears, the two work together to prevent Russian spies from acquiring these secrets and in turn become spies themselves.

Preus, Margi. Shadow on the Mountain. Amulet/Abrams, 2012. 286p. Gr. 5-8.
Based on the stories of Erling Storrusten, a real spy who survived the Nazi occupation of Norway during World War II, this novel features the fictional fourteen-year-old Espen, who joins the Resistance. Starting out by delivering illegal newspapers free from Nazi propaganda, Espen gradually becomes a more important figure in the Resistance, and eventually graduates to become a spy.

Smith, Lindsay. Sekret. Roaring Brook, 2014. 345p. Gr. 8-10.
Yulia’s only goal is to keep her family safe and she is not afraid to use her psychic abilities to do so. Keeping anyone safe in Soviet Russia, however, is a daunting prospect, especially now that the KGB is aware of her powers and wishes to recruit her for its psychic espionage program.

Stead, Rebecca. Liar & Spy. Lamb, 2012. 180p. Gr. 5-7.
Georges is plagued by family and school troubles, not to mention the stress of moving into a new apartment building. Georges soon finds a friend in Safer, an eccentric whose hobby of spying on the neighbors results in Georges’ recruitment for a new and challenging spy mission.

Wein, Elizabeth. Code Name Verity. Hyperion, 2012. 343p. Gr. 9-12.
Verity is a Scottish spy captured by the Gestapo in Nazi-occupied France during World War II. Under duress, Verity is ordered to recount her role in the war effort through a series of letters which are consequently read by the Gestapo. Flashbacks relate the story of how Verity came to be in France and her enduring friendship with pilot Maddie.

Zettel, Sarah. Palace of Spies. Harcourt, 2013. 362p. Gr. 7-10.
Peggy Fitzroy is trying to get by on the streets of London in 1716. When she receives a mysterious offer to impersonate a lady in waiting in the court of King George I in exchange for riches, she immediately accepts. Peggy’s benefactors just ask that she pass along any information she discovers regarding the royal family directly to them, making her a reluctant yet fashionable spy in the royal palace.