Spies, Lies and Disguise

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Spies, Lies, and Disguise: The Daring Tricks and Deeds That Won World War II is a nonfiction collection of historical tales by Jennifer Swanson. The book takes a look at all kinds of tricks and plots used by the Allied forces during World War II to defeat the Nazis.

Before reading this book, I had no idea the British army poisoned German cows so the Nazi army would have nothing to eat, or that a fake ice cream store was part of the D-Day invasion plot! These are just some of the many tales that Swanson has put into Spies, Lies, and Disguise. Swanson’s overall goal in the book seems to be to get her readers to understand that wars are not simply a matter of weaponry and battles, but also involve unusual and sometimes ridiculous schemes designed to trick an enemy who is as well-armed as you are. 

One of the things I really enjoy about this book is the way Swanson introduces each chapter with a “Help Wanted” illustration. The “ad” lets the reader know what that chapter will cover, like “Too old to fight? Must be willing to hide in bunkers, and keep a secret” before a chapter that covered Winston Churchill’s “secret army.”  Another thing I like is the inclusion of a short biography at the end of each chapter about real people who did the thing the chapter discussed, like famous author, Roald Dahl, who was a British secret agent tasked with getting the United States to enter the war. Both the ads and the biographies help the reader better understand the history.

I read a lot about World War II, and I still learned new things from Spies, Lies and Disguise, and readers who know very little about World War II would likely find this a very interesting way to learn about history. It is definitely not a boring history textbook!  Each chapter is a story of its own, so a reader can skip around and focus on the stories that seem the most interesting (like the Hollywood set designers tasked with creating inflatable decoy tanks and airplanes) without being confused or needing to read in order.