by Spencer Blake and Dugald Steer
Last December, I reviewed several titles from the Ologies series, including Dragonology, Egyptology and Illusionology. Since it's Christmas time, and I have young nephews, I found myself again contemplating these gorgeous picture books. The boys are still too young for Ologies, but since 2013 marks the ten year anniversary of the series, I think I'll spend this week exploring more Ologies volumes.
Previous “Ologies” book reviews can be read here.
Spyology is the first “modern” Ologies book. Instead of exploring the long-forgotten myths of Greece or trying to track mythological beasts, this is a book about espionage, describing the adventures of a globe-trotting spy named Spencer Blake clearly patterned on James Bond. This book of spycraft, written as a training guide for new recruits, teaches the reader what skills a successful spy must have, disguise techniques, active surveillance, body language, and many different types of ciphers and codes for concealing messages.
This book and I got off to a rather poor start. Compared to previous Ologies book, the construction of this book was downright shoddy. Pages of booklets were glued together, making it impossible to read without damaging the paper. A hidden spy tool could not be removed without tearing the back of the front cover, because a paper tab had been affixed sloppily and did not pull smoothly out of the page like it was designed to do. I don't know if the book's designer cut corners and made the openings too small, or if the person who assembled the book used the glue too liberally, but the constant problems made this book a real headache to use. I hope that I just got a bad copy, because I could see this getting really frustrating for a child!
But the content of the book is pretty cool. There are a lot of puzzles and hidden messages written in code; it would take hours to decipher them all. Spencer Blake's story is told in little handwritten pages that look torn from a pocket notepad, pasted onto every page, but the bulk of the text is instructional rather than a diary format. The textbook-like entries are illustrated with paintings that look straight off the covers of dime novels, retro graphic art, and black and white photographs.
To be honest, I wasn't too into this book. Spying was not a particular interest of mine, growing up, but I can definitely see this book's appeal to kids. There's a lot of neat activities that could fill many a rainy afternoon. But the shoddy assembling of the book makes me very nervous that the Ologies books are not being held to previous standards of quality.
3 out of 5 stars
To read more about Spyology, buy it or add it to your wishlist click here.
Peeking into the archives...today in:
2012: Movie: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)
2011: Fashionista Piranha Book Blog on hold for a few weeks!
2010: Closing down for end of year Festivus...
2009: Will Storr vs. the Supernatural by Will Storr
2008: News: The Grossest Book of 2008