March 9, 2015

Top Secret Files: World War I by Stephanie Bearce

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 1:22 am by suebe2

Top Secret Files: World War I
by Stephanie Bearce
Prufrock Press

Why were American soldiers called Doughboys? What were the most frightening weapons of World War I?  Find the answers to these questions and more in Bearce’s latest book.  Okay, she can’t say exactly why the US men were called Doughboys but I love the fact that she’s forthright with her young readers.  She presents several theories but admits that the truth is lost in the dust of history.

And that’s what attracts young readers to books like this — the honesty.  She doesn’t sugar coat things.  Mustard gas?  Terrible and tortuous.  Zepplins?  Silent and, because of this, utterly terrifying because they carried bombs to drop on civilian populations.

With my own writing, I’ve been doing a lot of reading about history and war.  In spite of this, I always learn something from Bearce’s books.  I now know why the German submarines were called U-boats, the truth about the Red Barron, and the disgusting counter measure that soldiers were told to take against chlorine gas (it involves pee).  I also learned about many of this heros of the war ranging from the Harlem Hellfighters to the Russian Nightwitches.

As always, Bearce’s books include a hands-on component.  This time around readers learn how to create a dazzle paint job and when they might want to use it, how to make a periscope and some of the finer points of blending in so that you can spy.  She even includes a recipe for stay-fresh cakes that were baked by the Red Cross to cheer up our boys in the trenches.

Boys and girls both will find something facsinating in this book.  Although it is part of a series, the books do not need to be read in order of publication or chronological order.  That said, I’d be interested in reading the in chronological order of events (Revolionary War, Civil War, World War I and World War II) just so that I could see how techniques changed over time.

Pick this one up for the young history buff in your life.

–SueBE

 

March 2, 2015

Top Secret Files: The American Revolution by Stephanie Bearce

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 1:59 am by suebe2

Top Secret Files:
The American Revolution
by Stephanie Bearce
Prufrock Press

I’m a history buff so I read a lot on various periods, both fiction and nonfiction.  When an author comes up with things I don’t know about well known figures, it surprises me.  Bearce has done it again.

As with the other books in the series, this one is all abou spies, secret missions and facts long hidden.  I was a little surprised when she started with George Washington.  Seriously?  Washington?  I may know a lot about ol’ George, but I didn’t know he had worked as a spy for the British.

In addition to giving readers little known information on big names like Washington, Bearce also sets the record straight about a few people that readers may have heard of but actually know very little about.  Everyone knows Benedict Arnold traitor, but Bearce fills in the details about how he first fought for the US and then later turned spy.  The one that really pulled me in was Paul Revere.  Bearce not only fills readers in on the details of the big ride but she also tells a bit more about Revere’s day job as a silver smith.  It wasn’t just fancy dishes.  Revere also did dental work and had worked as on early forensics investigator.

In addition to well-known figures, Bearce pulls in hereos I had never heard of including Nancy Morgan Hart from Georgia who not only spied but fought hand to hand.  Then there was Peter Francisco, a giant of a man who carried a canon on his shouldiers to keep the British from capturing it.

As always, Bearce’s books are peppered with hands on activities from sharp shooting (safe to do indoors) and writing invisible messages.

The information is quirky and fascinating which will help turn young readers on to history. Written in brief chapters, this book is suitable for reluctant readers who will be able to read for a while and then take a break.

Unlike some series, each of these books stands on its own.  You can start with the American Revolution since it came first.  Or read about World War II if that is a favorite time period.  Wherever you start, you are going to want to pick up the other books in the series to see what other authors haven’t been telling you!

–SueBE

October 2, 2014

Top Secret Files: World War II by Stephanie Bearce

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 1:02 am by suebe2

Top Secret Files: World War II 
by Stephanie Bearce
Profrock Press

From Josephine Baker to explosive balloons and baseball player Moe Berg.  All this and more is in the pages of this book.  Bearce has defintely created a series that will hook young readers and make them want to know more about hstory.  She’s done it by telling them about the things that aren’t generally covered in history books or lessons.

Each book in this series has five sections:  Secrets, Spies, Special Missions, Secret Weapons and Secret Forces.  Since I live in St. Louis, I especially enjoyed reading about Baker who is from just across the river.  As a female entertainer, she could move about more freely than other people and soldiers, even officers, often spoke freely in front of her.  She became a valuable spy for the French.

Bearce has also written about the secret codes, covering both the Nazi’s Enigma machine and the Bletchley Park code breakers who worked so hard to set up a similar device working with a stolen machine.  She has also written about a variety of men and women who worked as spies.  Many of the successful spies were women simply because soldiers didn’t automatically suspect a house wife or cute girl of being an enemy agent.

Another part that I really enjoyed was reading about two secret cities.  One was real and located in Tennessee.  The other was a fake, used to hide the facilities where air craft were built.

As with other books in this series, Bearce avoids overwhelming her readers by delivering the information in easy digestible chunks.  A reluctant reader can stop after reading about Josephine Baker while a more eager reader can devour the entire section on spies.

Readers who are especially intrigued by the topic will find a list of resources in the back of the book.

Bearce presents a wide variety of information, describing the world of Americans, Candadians, British, French, Germans and Russians. She has even included a princess from India.  Bearce is a former teacher and she knows both how to hook her readers and how to deliver the facts.

Pick this one up for history buffs, those who aren’t sure and even adult enthusiasts.  Each will find something new in this book.

–SueBE

September 29, 2014

Top Secret Files: The Civil War by Stephanie Bearce

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 1:33 am by suebe2

Top Secret Files: The Civil War
by Stephanie Bearce
Profrock Press

Getting kids interested in history can be tough if they think it is about nothing more than dates and names and lists of tedious facts.  Bearce, on the other hand, has written a book about history that kids will want to read.  After all, who doesn’t want to get in on a good secret?

Bearce’s series is all about spies, their missions and the tools they used to get the job done.  She writes about plots against Lincoln, slaves acting as spies, women disguised as men, submarines, secret codes and attempts to steal locomotives.  Each book in this series has five sections:  Secrets, Spies, Special Missions, Secret Weapons and Secret Forces.

Young readers will learn about the part played by the Pinkerton detectives, a woman who used laundry as a code to send messages to Union forces, spy balloons, and the importance of maps.  Bright lights were even used as a weapon.  That said, not everything Bearce discusses was successful which is fortunate since the Confederacy tried to use germ warfare against the Union.

My favorite section was the one on Ft. Davidson.  The fort isn’t far from my home and I’ve seen for myself just how small it is.  It is featured in Bearce’s book because the Union Forces stationed there won a decisive victory by sneaking away and blowing the place up.

I also liked the how-to pieces.  Readers learn the Confederate Signal Corp alphabet, how to create a scytale and even how to make a working model of a hot air balloon.

With so much information in one place, it might be overwhelming but Bearce has broken each section into easily-digestible chunks.  A reluctant reader can easy conquer a section of 2 or 4 pages while more eager readers cna devour much more.

Readers who are especially intrigued by the topic will find a list of resources in the back of the book.

This is a very well balanced look at the Civil War.  Bearce shows that the Union and the Confederacy both had successes and failures.  She also includes information about men, women and children, slave and free.  It isn’t a comprehensive look at the Civil War but it does give young readers information that they aren’t going to find in other books on the topic.  Bearce is a former teacher and she knows both how to hook her readers and how to deliver the facts.

Pick this one up for history buffs, those who aren’t sure and even adult enthusiasts.  Each will find something knew in this book.

–SueBE

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