How does it happen? I get a new stack of books from the library, and almost every time, one has something to do with Communists or the Red Scare. Am I unwittingly requesting books on a theme? Is this the new version of dystopian fiction? Is there something about now that makes authors want to write about politically-motivated witch hunts?
Pete Collison loves Sam Spade and radio crime dramas. His life is pretty good – friends, punchball, a part-time job reading to a blind man, mystery magazines. Then his teacher starts spreading rumors about his dad being a Communist, his class and friends turn against him, the FBI tries to get him to give up his own father, and a family mystery bubbles up. Pete’s best friend can’t even help him much. Her parents order her not to hang around him anymore and even recruit another kid to spy on her!
As the story unfolds, more troubling secrets are revealed. Even at the end, everything is not perfect. His dad is not vindicated, and no one apologizes for ruining his life, but Pete knows the truth, finally. It’s an interesting exploration of the way the truth doesn’t really matter when something has turned everyone against you and people won’t speak up, and a good reminder of how even small lies and omissions can trap good people in tough situations.
A few other middle grade books on the Red Scare or Communism:
The Paper Cowboy by Kristin Levin – See my post on it here.
Countdown by Deborah Wiles
The Rising Star of Rusty Nail by Lesley Blume
Fallout by Todd Strasser
The Spy Catchers of Maple Hill by Megan Frazer Blakemore
Breaking Stalin’s Nose or Arcady’s Goal by Eugene Yelchin
The Apothecary by Maile Meloy