What’s The Nine-Year-Old reading this week?

Mary Bowser and the Civil War Spy Ring by Enigma Alberti

While we were in Washington, DC last week, we visited the International Spy Museum on F Street. We highly recommend it. Take it from us, though, if you go, your experience will be much better if you go all in on the secret agent mission. I’m pleased to report that all three of us successfully maintained our covers and completed our missions.

Since we’ve been back, The Nine-Year-Old has been consuming one spy-related book after another. Her favorite from the week is Enigma Alberti’s* Mary Bowser and the Civil War Spy Ring. 
civilwarspyWhat the book’s about: 
  Mary Bowser and the Civil War Spy Ring is based on the life of a former slave who spied for the Union Army during the Civil War. Mary Bowser infiltrated the highest ranks of the Confederacy by posing as an illiterate servant in Jefferson Davis’ family. Her post in the Confederate White House gave her access to some of the Confederacy’s most sensitive secrets. She used her photographic memory to relay critical information back to the Union.

Although we still don’t know precisely which information Mary acquired, this book gives middle school readers a snapshot of what Mary’s life as a spy in the Confederate White House may have been like. 

Why The Nine-Year-Old thinks you’ll like it: “It’s very believable. Some of it may have happened, but I couldn’t tell which parts. It was mostly make-believe, I think, but not entirely fiction either. Anyone interested in either history or spies would like this.”

*If you, like me think Enigma Alberti is entirely too appropriate an author’s name to be real, pat yourself on the back. It’s the cover identity for a squad of writers who write the Spy on History series from Workman Publishing. 

Wonderopolis (www.wonderopolis.org)


When The Nine-Year-Old hasn’t been reading about spies, she’s been devouring the archive of wonders on the educational website, Wonderopolis.

Created by the National Center for Families Learning (NCFL), the Wonderopolis website is a treasure trove of questions submitted from curious minds around the world. To date, the site has an archive of more than 1,800 wonders on a vast range of topics. Each day a new wonder is asked and answered. So far, The Nine-Year-Old’s favorite Wonder of the Day is #1841: Was King Arthur a real person?

I’m sure you will shocked to learn that The Nine-Year-Old has submitted several wonders of her own, and is eagerly awaiting her answers from the Wonderopolis team. We will let you know how that goes.

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About Shala Howell

I spent two decades helping companies like Bell Labs, Juniper Networks, and a genetic testing company that was later acquired by CVS translate some of the world’s most complicated concepts into actionable, understandable English. Now I'm working on a much harder problem -- fostering children’s curiosity and engagement in the scientific, artistic, and linguistic world that surrounds them. The first book in my Caterpickles Parenting Series, What’s That, Mom?, focuses on how to use public art to nurture children’s curiosity in the world around them. My next book, Did Dinosaurs Have Belly Buttons?, is currently planned for release in 2018. In the meantime, you can find me blogging about life with a very curious Ten-Year-Old at Caterpickles.com, chatting about books and the writing life at BostonWriters.blog, and tweeting about books, writing, science, & things that make me smile at @shalahowell.
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