In Disguise!: Undercover with Real Women Spies

In Disguise!: Undercover with Real Women Spies

by Ryan Ann Hunter, Jeanette Little

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Investigate real-life adventures of espionage in this collection of impressive and inspiring profiles.

Spanning more than 300 years and numerous countries, In Disguise! details the lives of some of history’s most daring women, all of whom risked their lives to stand up for their beliefs. Originally published a decade ago, this fully updated


Investigate real-life adventures of espionage in this collection of impressive and inspiring profiles.

Spanning more than 300 years and numerous countries, In Disguise! details the lives of some of history’s most daring women, all of whom risked their lives to stand up for their beliefs. Originally published a decade ago, this fully updated and expanded edition of In Disguise! profiles twenty-eight daring international secret agents, from Harriet Tubman, who freed hundreds of slaves during the Civil War, to Eva Wu, who hid secret messages in her hair to aid the Chinese Revolution, to the modern-day exploits of former CIA agent Valerie Plame. With riveting narratives, fun quizzes to determine if you have what it takes to go undercover, secret-agent trivia, and short spotlight bios, In Disguise! is sure to engage and inspire.

Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
Gr 7–10—This collection, updated from a 2003 edition, features spies from the 17th century through the modern era. Some stories are noteworthy, including Pauline Cushman's transition from actress to spy and Sarah Emma Edmonds's disguised persona as a man during the Civil War. Others, like Harriet Tubman's brave work on the Underground Railroad, are less compelling. Each entry starts with a short teaser that builds interest while serving as a helpful prereading tool. Several shorter "spotlights" feature brief profiles, events, and inventions while "spycraft" gives instructions for making invisible ink and tips for changing one's appearance. The layout is somewhat claustrophobic with little white space, and while sidebars help break up the text, many of them are unrelated to the content on the page. Visuals include appropriate historical maps and drawings based on photographs or typical styles of the era. There is no index, which might make this book difficult for research. It complements other true-spy accounts, such as Paul Janeczko's The Dark Game: True Spy Stories from Invisible Ink to CIA Moles (Candlewick, 2010) and Penny Colman's Spies! Women in the Civil War (Shoe Tree, 1992) and will appeal to those particularly interested in learning more about espionage.—Carrie Shaurette, Dwight-Englewood School, NJ
Kirkus Reviews
Updated from a 2003 edition, this catalog of female spies is depressingly sanitized and breathless. The language is plain, simple and occasionally clichéd, enlivened by far too many exclamation points. It seems that nearly every one of these 40-plus women was beautiful or attractive, but far more interesting is how many of them knew several languages and were more educated than was typical for girls of their time. The authors (Hunter is a pseudonym for Pamela D. Greenwood and Elizabeth G. Macalaster) cover 300 years, from the Anglo-Dutch wars and Aphra Behn to Valerie Plame Wilson (a one-page "Spotlight") and Lindsay Moran. The wide range of wars and women includes Ann Story, who spied for and protected the Green Mountain Boys in the American Revolution, and Eva Wu, a dancer who spied against the Communist Chinese in Hong Kong. "Spycraft" activities include making a fake rock to hide documents in and creating a cover identity. Chef Julia Child, actress Hedy Lamarr and Mata Hari are mentioned, although in brief Spotlights rather than full chapters. The language strives mightily to avoid any hint of sex (although the word mistress is used), and while danger is indeed described, it is bleached of any horror. The cover shows a smiling girl in a trench coat and a fedora, about as inappropriate an image for these brave and resourceful women as can be imagined. (bibliography, end notes) (Nonfiction. 8-12)

Product Details

Aladdin/Beyond Words
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File size:
5 MB
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

The American Revolution


For years, the desire for freedom from Britain grew among the colonists in North America. Fighting began in Massachusetts in 1775, and finally, on July 4, 1776, thirteen colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence, proclaiming themselves part of a new country.

The Patriots joined the Continental Army, led by General George Washington. These included settlers homesteading in wilderness areas north and west of the thirteen original colonies. Other colonists, the Tories, remained loyal to the British.

At first, it seemed the British would win the war. They captured New York and Philadelphia. The war spread to the Southern colonies. The Continental Army was not well supplied, and during the harsh winters, many soldiers got sick and died, and others deserted. General Washington sought the support of other countries in Europe. Benjamin Franklin went abroad, eventually convincing France, then Spain and others, to join the Patriots’ side.

Women helped on the battlefield. Many got the nickname Molly Pitcher for bringing pitchers of water to wounded soldiers. A few wanted to fight, but they had to disguise themselves as men to do so. Those who stayed home knitted socks and made shirts for the soldiers. They melted their pewter dishes to make bullets. More girls and women than we know dared to spy. They eavesdropped on conversations, gathered information, and carried secret messages directly to the army camps, relying on their wits and courage.

The Anglo-Dutch Wars


In the seventeenth century, the Netherlands was a peaceful trading nation known as the United Provinces with one of the biggest merchant fleets in the world. The Dutch depended on their strong navy and sea trade to keep their economy stable. They sailed to their colonies in Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, and South America, where they traded for spices, colorful cloth, and exotic plants. The Netherlands became a wealthy empire.

England, also a great maritime nation, wanted these trading routes, but the Dutch refused to make a deal. War was inevitable.

Three wars were fought between the navies of England and the Netherlands. At the end of the third war, England finally defeated the Dutch and gained control of the sea trade. During the second war, Charles II was king of England. While the Dutch had a good spy network, England’s intelligence service had become sloppy and ineffective. King Charles desperately needed reliable agents—even if it meant recruiting a woman.

Meet the Author

Ryan Ann Hunter is a pen name for Pamela D. Greenwood and Elizabeth G. Macalaster, who have teamed up to write books about bridges, tunnels, skyscrapers, airplanes, robots, the history of flight, and women spies. Their books have garnered several awards, including the Children’s Book Sense Pick, the Chicago Public Library Best of the Best, Parenting magazine Book of the Year award, Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Best Book award, and Austin Young Engineer’s Award.
A native of North Carolina, Jeanette Little is an artist and illustrator living and working in Portland, Oregon. She received her BFA in painting from East Carolina University and then studied in the University of Oregon's MFA painting program. Her work has appeared in several publications as well as on national television. She has exhibited across the United States and has pieces in private collections from New York to Los Angeles.

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