________________ CM . . . . Volume IX Number 15 . . . . March 28, 2003


Ultra Hush-Hush: Espionage and Special Missions. (Outwitting the Enemy: Stories from the Second World War).

Stephen Shapiro & Tina Forrester. Illustrated by David Craig.
Toronto, ON: Annick Press, 2003.
96 pp., pbk. & cl., $19.95 (pbk.), $29.95 (cl.).
ISBN 1-55037-778-7 (pbk.), ISBN 1-55037-779-5 (cl.).

Subject Headings:
World War, 1939-1945-Secret Service-Juvenile literature.
World War, 1939-1945-Deception-Juvenile literature.
World War, 1939-1945-Cryptography-Juvenile literature.

Grades 8 and up / Ages 13 and up.

Review by Alexander Gregor.

*** /4


The war brought six years of terror, hatred, and cruelty. But difficult circumstances can inspire innovation and creativity. The accounts in this book demonstrate that some people show great resourcefulness under pressure. The trickier the problem, the more creative they become. For instance, when the Japanese planned to knock the Americans out of the war, a code breaker at Pearl Harbor tricked the Japanese into confirming that Midway was their next secret target. And when “Black Devil” Tom Prince’s telephone wires were severed, he performed a clever ruse to get his message through – even though the Germans were watching every move he made. You want these people on your side during a war.

internal art

A very well crafted book, Ultra Hush-Hush is the first volume in an anticipated new series called “Outwitting the Enemy: Stories from the Second World War,” and it will be enjoyed and appreciated by anyone interested in World War II generally, and espionage and special missions specifically. The book is organized into four topical areas, and in a balanced way reflects the activities of the “ordinary” combatants, military and civilian, on both sides. The topic areas include: espionage, special forces (Axis), special forces (Allied), and codes and ciphers. Each of these areas in turn comprises a number of two-to-four page narratives, ranging from “Crook turned spy” to “Navajo code talkers.” The stories are very well written and carefully ensure that nothing in the way of background knowledge is taken for granted: side panels and a supplementary glossary do a nice and unobtrusive job of providing definitions of various terms used, background information on people, places and events, maps, and supplementary information that would be cumbersome in the main body of the text. Each of the stories is extensively and effectively illustrated, often with full-page colour illustrations.

     Ultra Hush-Hush will for the most part be read for pleasure and out of general interest, but it will incidentally convey a substantial body of information about significant historical figures (Churchill, Roosevelt, Hitler, Mussolini, etc.) and events, and about some of the important scientific and technological developments that came as part of the war effort. And it will, it is hoped, convey an appreciation for the men and women to whose often unacknowledged actions so much is owed. The term “hero” has tended to be used with abandon in recent years. Ultra Hush-Hush provides a useful reminder of what the term should mean.


Formerly a professor in the Faculty of Education, the University of Manitoba, Alexander Gregor remains a history buff.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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