Max in the House of Spies: A Tale of World War II

From History Book By Book
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Modern Age

Max in the House of Spies: A Tale of World War II
Author: Gidwitz, Adam
Buy at Amazon |

Time Period: Modern Age
Time Frame: 1939
Geographic Area: Europe
Country: Great Britain, Germany
Topics: WWII, Kindertransport, Espionage
Genre: Fiction
Reading Age: Middle Grade, Upper Middle Grade
Format: Chapter Book
Published: 2024

World History > Modern Age > WWII

“Max in the House of Spies is everything you could hope for in a book,” -R. J. Palacio, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Wonder, White Bird, and Pony

“Espionage! Secrets! Suspense! If you’ve ever dreamed of being a spy, this book is for you.” -Alan Gratz, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Refugee and Projekt 1065

Max Bretzfeld doesn’t want to move to London.

Leaving home is hard and Max is alone for the first time in his life. But not for long. Max is surprised to discover that he’s been joined by two unexpected traveling companions, one on each shoulder, a kobold and a dybbuk named Berg and Stein.

Germany is becoming more and more dangerous for Jewish families, but Max is determined to find a way back home, and back to his parents. He has a plan to return to Berlin. It merely involves accomplishing the impossible: becoming a British spy.

The first book in a duology, Max in the House of Spies is a thought-provoking World War II story as only acclaimed storyteller Adam Gidwitz can tell it—fast-paced and hilarious, with a dash of magic and a lot of heart.

Emily's Review

I was RIVETED by this story. Spies and intrigue make for excellent reading, but even more so, I love that the author frames this story with a note at the beginning explaining that this is a book about asking and exploring two big questions - Why do people hate Jews? and How can a whole country believe a big lie? The author did a great job building a story that worked to enthrall readers while also getting them to ponder and think about these big questions.

Max is a great protagonist to follow - he is smart but makes some very questionable choices. Sent to England to England on the brink of war on the Kindertransport, he is worried about his parents back in Berlin. Fitting in in England is also a challenge. He is still learning the language and his accent makes him stand out. But as I said, he is a smart and determined kid, so he puts all of his efforts into finding a way to prove that he is a capable spy so the government will send him back to Berlin.

The adults in this book range in helpful to infuriating. Some want what is best for Max, while others, particularly those working for the government, see Max as nothing more than a useful tool in their mission to win the war.

Oh, and did I mention that there is a fantastical element? When Max leaves Germany, he doesn't leave alone - he is followed by two mythical beings: a kobold and a dybbuk. No one but Max can see or hear them, and they are a sort of Statler and Waldorf, heckling and commentating on everything that is happening to Max. They lend some comic relief to a very distressing and sometimes disturbing story.

And the cliffhanger at the end left me reeling! I need to know what happens next. I'm very much looking forward to the conclusion!

While this is a middle grade book, I think I would recommend it for the older end of that range - 10 and up. There is a lot of nuance and background that is useful to understand and get the most out of this story.

Other Similar Books

Other suggestions on the subject of World War II (European Front).