Young Josie O’Malley would like to help battle the Nazis. But first, she has other battles to fight for her family. Dad is away fighting the war, and it is up to her to help Mam keep the rent paid and keep her brothers safe from the bullying landlord’s son and his rough friends. In the meantime, she can’t help but wonder where all the superheroes have gone. Surely, the famed caped ladies should be helping to fight the war and to stamp out bullies…only nobody knows where they are. Still, when Josie sees an advertisement posted seeking good puzzle-solvers to fight the Nazis, she knows this is her chance to do something bigger than sweep the floor of the neighborhood diner. But when she arrives to take the puzzle test, she knows something is wrong. The man in charge, Mr. Hissler, throws all the girls’ tests in the garbage…and he seems awfully interested in tracking down some of the smartest boys. Josie befriends two of the other puzzle-solving girls, who are also angry at Mr. Hissler’s treatment—and she soon learns that Akiko and Mae are combating racism as well as sexism. Together, the three girls find themselves swept up into an unexpected intrigue, tracing Mr. Hissler’s movements and uncovering a spy ring. More surprisingly, the trio of friends find themselves wearing capes and discovering superpowers they didn’t know they had. But there’s not much time for them to learn how to use their powers—Josie’s cousin and mother are in danger as a result of Hissler’s plan!
This first volume of a planned series is simultaneously an action-packed mystery, an historical fiction that honors World War II-era female mathematicians, and an homage to the early female comic-book superheroes. Most of the biggest action sequences are narrated in vintage comic-book chapters, complete with deliciously corny alliterative insults flung between heroes and villains (“I’ll have my revenge, Pesky Pixie!”). The rest of the novel is narrated in snappy, funny prose, following Josie’s point of view as she simultaneously tries to make peace between her bickering best friends and tries to conceal a big secret about her father from her friends and brothers. Young readers who enjoy comic books or World War II spy stories will look forward to reading the rest of this series.
Naomi Lesley ©2019 Parents’ Choice
Naomi Lesley taught middle and high school English for six years. She is currently in a doctoral program at the George Washington University, focusing on American young adult literature.