Thursday, May 7, 2015

Catch You Later, Traitor - a bookwrap

The Adventures of Sam Spade was a radio series based loosely on the private detective character Sam Spade, created by writer Dashiell Hammett for The Maltese Falcon. The show ran for 13 episodes on ABC in 1946, for 157 episodes on CBS in 1946-1949, and finally for 51 episodes on NBC in 1949-1951. The series starred Howard Duff (and later, Steve Dunne) as Sam Spade and Lurene Tuttle as his secretary Effie, and took a considerably more tongue-in-cheek approach to the character than the novel or movie. The series was largely overseen by producer/director William Spier. In 1947, scriptwriters Jason James and Bob Tallman received an Edgar Award for Best Radio Drama from the Mystery Writers of America.

Before the series, Sam Spade had been played in radio adaptations of The Maltese Falcon by both Edward G. Robinson (in a 1943 Lux Radio Theater production) and by Bogart himself (in a 1946 Academy Award Theater production), both on CBS.

Dashiell Hammett's name was removed from the series in the late 1940s because he was being investigated for involvement with the Communist Party. Later, when Howard Duff's name appeared in the Red Channels book, he was not invited to play the role when the series made the switch to NBC in 1950.

Unwrapping today's book...

Avi authored this book and it is for ages 8-12, (grades 3-7).  It is an historical fiction for youth and includes family, loyalty, bullying, friendship, individual rights and freedom.  The events in the novel were inspired by Avi's own childhood experiences with radical left-wing politics and the events of the Red Scare.  

It is set is 1951 and twelve-year-old Peter Collison has his life not only turned upside down, but inside out.  He is just a regular kid living in Brooklyn, New York.  He adores reading Sam Spade, mystery comics and listening to radio serials with his family.  Crime dramas are his thing and he loves to imagine that he is the lead detective who solves the crime.  

One day an FBI agent mysteriously shows up at his door and starts asking probing questions ... Peter finds himself actually living out his dream of being the lead detective.  Because of rumours and suspicions that are flying, his classmates ditch him, even his best friend Kit.  He has been accused of having a communist in his family, and the finger is pointing right at his dad.  Could this possibility be true?  How can Peter trust anyone?  Everyone around him is a suspect so Peter takes it upon himself to find out the truth.

He sorts through a litany of clues and happenings that might just end this nightmare, restore his family's good standing, and finally be set free, to be normal, once again.  

This is a perfect book to use as a catalyst to start conversations with students in classrooms and with family members around the dinner table about news like the NSA's surveillance of private citizens or how to balance personal freedom with society's larger protections. Readers and especially educators will find real relevance in "Catch You, Later, Traitor."  I love the book and had to keep on reading just to see how everything would be resolved....I wasn't disappointed, it is a real page turner indeed.  I highly recommend this book.

Unwrapping the author...

I was born in New York City, along with a twin sister. I am five minutes older than Emily. It was Emily, for reasons no one knows — she certainly doesn't — who called me Avi. It stuck. It's the only name I use now. 
My father was a doctor, and my mother, later on, became a social worker. Every night I was read to. Every Friday we were taken to the library. I always received at least one book for my birthday. I have a few of them yet. Early on, I had my own collection of books. I loved to read. Still do. 
I came from a family of writers, artists, and musicians. And today we have all that, plus filmmakers, actors, and theater and TV directors. (Two of my sons are in the rock music world. The third is a journalist.) When we get together there is much talk, disagreement, and laughter. 
Growing up in Brooklyn, I went to a public school, and sat in the same class with my sister until eighth grade. I hated that. My older brother was considered a genius. He isn't, but he did go to college at the age of 15. My sister was very smart too. Guess who wasn't thought to be that smart? 
When I went to high school I wanted to be a designer of airplanes. But flunking out of the science high school brought me to a small private school that provided some of the attention I needed. I got it when an English teacher insisted I get some help with my writing. 
I did get help, and that help led me to think that I might become a writer. I made up my mind to focus on this when I was 17 and a senior in high school. 
I began by writing plays, and wrote a lot of bad ones. It was only when my eldest son, Shaun, was born, that I took to writing for kids. Since then, I've never written anything else. My first book was published in 1970. I've published over 30 books since then. 
For some 25 years I worked as a librarian, first at the New York Public Library, then at Trenton State College in New Jersey. My life has always been with, around, and for books. 
More About Avi
“I want my readers to feel, to think, sometimes to laugh. But most of all I want them to enjoy a good read.” 
Though the topics and the style of Avi's books range widely, one common thread unites them: They are all invitingly readable, even to the most reluctant readers. Avi explains, “I take a great deal of satisfaction in using popular forms — the adventure, the mystery, the thriller — so as to hold my reader with the sheer pleasure of a good story.” 
Honored with the Newbery Medal for Crispin: Cross of Lead and a Newbery Honor for Nothing but the Truth, Avi is the acclaimed author of several works of historical fiction, including The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle and The Man Who Was Poe. Avi faced and overcame many difficulties in his effort to become a writer. He suffers from dysgraphia, a dysfunction in his writing abilities that causes him to reverse letters or misspell words. “In a school environment,” Avi recalls, “I was perceived as being sloppy and erratic, and not paying attention.” Still, in the face of unending criticism, Avi persevered. “I became immune to it,” Avi says. “I liked what I wrote.” 
Now an award-winning author, Avi enjoys visiting schools. He identifies with children who are lonely, frustrated, and isolated. “I always ask to speak to the learning-disabled kids. They come in slowly, waiting for yet another pep talk, more instructions. Eyes cast down, they won't even look at me. Their anger glows. I don't say a thing. I lay out pages of my copy-edited manuscripts, which are covered with red marks. 'Look here,' I say, 'see that spelling mistake. There, another spelling mistake. Looks like I forgot to put a capital letter there. Oops! Letter reversal.' Their eyes lift. They are listening. And I am among friends.”


Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 4–6—Pete Collison's dad is a commie sympathizer: that's the accusation Pete's teacher makes in front of his entire seventh grade class. It's 1951 Brooklyn, during the height of the Red Scare, so Pete is instantly shunned at school, his best friend avoids him, and the only person who wants to talk to him is an FBI agent. Unsure of whom to trust, Pete decides to emulate his detective hero Sam Spade. He will investigate his father's past—could his dad really be a communist?—and find out who reported his family to the FBI. Avi, a master of historical fiction, vividly recreates not only the neighborhoods and pop culture of period Brooklyn, but the runaway paranoia that dominated daily life in the early years of the Cold War. With each clue Pete uncovers, the tension picks up, engaging readers in solving the dual mystery of his father's past and identifying his accuser whose name is kept a well-concealed surprise until the last moment. In clever digressions, detective Pete mentally rewrites mundane observations with hard-boiled hyperbole. He describes the sunlight in his bedroom: "It didn't promise much and left early." Strong supporting characters add subtle but important details about a period in American history that may not be fully studied in classrooms. Insightful readers will pick up on warnings about the abuse of government power. VERDICT As a mystery, historical fiction, and love letter to 1950s Brooklyn, this novel succeeds on every level.—Marybeth Kozikowski, Sachem Public Library, Holbrook, NY


"A breathtaking seafaring adventure....A sensuous novel, evoking the sights, sounds, and smells of the ship and the sea; the moods of captain and crew; the terror and bloodshed caused by the captain; and the nature of friendship and loyalty." School Libarary Journal

"...a rattling fine yarn. Avi's plot is engineered for maximum thrills, with twists, turns and treachery aplenty.... A page turner to delight Avi's fans, it will leave readers hoping for a sequel." Publishers Weekly 

Read on and read always!

It's a wrap.

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