May 10, 2018

Family of Spies: Blog Tour

Today I'm reviewing Jodi Carmichael's newest middle grade novel Family of Spies as part of the book's blog tour.  Please check out the others stops on the tour as listed at Chapter by Chapter Blog Tours and Promotions and enter to win a free copy of Family of Spies here.

Written by Jodi Carmichael
Yellow Dog (an imprint of Great Plains Publications)
288 pp.
Ages 8-13
April 24, 2018

Most people who delve into their family histories are hoping for the unusual like connections to royalty, a hint of scandal or extraordinary accomplishment.  But for most, the exercise of discovering family history details is more likely to be a slog and end in disappointment, since  most people in the past lived lives of work and family with few opportunities for the exotic or the mysterious.  Not so for the great-grandfather of thirteen-year-old cousins Ford MacKenzie and Ellie Whitaker and Ford’s older brother Gavin.  Great-Granddad’s story would be the stuff of legends, if it didn’t have to be sealed.

The MacKenzie and Whitaker families, from Canada and the US respectively, are meeting in Paris for a European vacation. Soon after their arrival, Ford begins to experience moments of déjà vu that seem to time-slip him into Nazi-occupied Paris during World War II.  These episodes are especially emphatic when he touches any of the personal effects–letters, photos, postcards, bookmarks, etc.– in his great-grandfather’s briefcase. A visit to a psychic confirms Ford to be a clairvoyant who is able to connect to the past. 

Using a letter his mother received denying them access to Edward Crawford’s service records,  Ford connects to that military office and sees his great-grandfather’s file identifying him as part of  Special Operations Executive, a top-secret spy agency in operation during the war. But the three teens’ search at the military library alerts other forces to their interest in E. H. Crawford and soon Ford’s “visions” are not the only worries they have.

Assessing the various materials in his great-grandfather’s briefcase, Ford determines that he can connect with Great-Granddad and would be able to envision what he was doing during the war by (re)visiting a café/restaurant, the Louvre, Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower and several more stops.  With each visit, Ford reveals more about his great-grandfather’s covert activities, as well as his fears and guilt for a mission gone awry.

The story is very loosely based on Jodi Carmichael’s own grandfather whose military records remain sealed.  By weaving family history with Ford’s supernatural ability to divine the past, Jodi Carmichael has created a multi-layered mystery that honours her family and entertains readers with intrigue, adventure, a bit of the fantastic and a history lesson like no other. Family of Spies also reveals much about family dynamics and reminds us that, like Great-Granddad’s records of spy activity, nothing is ever final, even in relationships modified by guilt or jealousy because forgiveness can unravel much.

For young readers who enjoy an action-adventure story with a bit of history and the supernatural, Family of Spies will completely captivate and satisfy, and leave them anticipating Ford, Gavin and Ellie’s next adventures (fingers crossed) as the family continues their travels to London and Cairo.


Jodi Carmichael’s dreams of becoming an author began to come true when she attended her first SCBWI conference in Los Angeles in 2007 and was nominated for the Sue Alexander Most Promising New Work Award. A champion for the underdog and kids who think differently, she wrote Spaghetti is NOT a Finger Food (and Other Life Lessons) (2013) which won numerous awards including a Gold Mom’s Choice and a Silver Moonbeam in 2013. In 2016 her novel about relationship abuse, Forever Julia (2016), won the Manitoba Book Award, the McNally Robinson Books for Young People Award - Older Category and received a Bronze Moonbeam Award for Young Adult Fiction - Mature Issues.

When not channeling characters from her books, she can be found strolling Manitoba beaches with her husband, two daughters, and exceedingly scruffy Border Terrier named Zoe. 

1 comment:

  1. Helen, thank you for the wonderful review and thanks for hosting me on my blog tour. I have just started outlining Family of Spies: London. Pretty sure I will need a research trip to explore old Special Operations Executive haunts like The Museum of Natural History in London, Cambridge and Oxford University, and wherever else blending fact with fiction takes me.