City of Spies
Written by Susan Kim & Laurence Klavan
Illustrated by Pascal Dizin
Colored by Hilary Sycamore
Published by First Second
This book is a pure delight. In 1942, Evelyn and Tony are ten years old and full of imagination. Evelyn doodles her own comic strips, Zirconium Man and Scooter (the sidekick bears an uncanny resemblance to Evelyn herself), and Tony’s always on the lookout for Nazi spies. Of course, the duo eventually uncovers a real Nazi plot and have to save the United States, over the skepticism of the adults.
Illustrator Pascal Dizin brings a Tintin-like line to the proceedings. Clean, open illustrations, densely fitting an average of ten panels onto each page, carry the story with warmth and humor. Dizin’s character designs are strong and unique, easily identifiable in different outfits or in shadow, and he’s able to create a cityscape that convincingly captures a clean ideal of 1940s New York. The panel-to-panel progressions move confidently and easily. Moreover, both Dizin’s line work and Hilary Sycamore’s color operate in an understated manner, finding a strong balance between the two. Dizin’s strong designs and character acting carry all the wonder and wit of the script, and Sycamore’s flat, natural coloring complements the upbeat nature of the narrative. Also, the dot-style coloring used during Evelyn’s comic book sequences wonderfully suits the nostalgic nod to comics of childhood whimsy.
Susan Kim and Laurence Klavan’s script attains the warmth and imaginative quality of the best bits of childhood escapism. Evelyn and Tony’s imaginative misadventures carry a large portion of the book, explaining why the adults do and do not believe their story of Nazi spies, and their antics manage to be sufficiently silly to entertain the youngest readers without being so juvenile as to bore older readers. In short, they’ve crafted a true all-ages adventure, an imaginative delight.
City of Spies is aimed at your children, if my estimation of our primary readership’s age is even slightly accurate, but its creators, using sharp dialogue, engaging plot twists and strong artwork, have crafted a tale that all but the most cynical readers will delight in. It comes with a full Blog@ endorsement.