MMGM Review: The Faithful Spy, by John Hendrix

Last week, I reviewed The Enchanted Sonata, a YA book that I was happy to put into the hands of my middle grader. This week, allow me to introduce you to one of the most incredible MG books I have ever read...but which I'm going to wait a while to pass along to my "tender hearted reader."

John Hendrix's The Faithful Spy is a masterful graphic novel (of sorts) true story of "Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Plot to Kill Hitler." If you think a biography of a mild-mannered German Lutheran minister might be dull, you're in for a shock. Without ever being saccharine or pious, Hendrix's rendition of Bonhoeffer's life never shies away from showing his faith--after all, it was central to who he was and how he struggled with the world in which he lived. Rather, this story is all about faith. A faith that allowed radical hope and love to flourish. A faith so extreme that the service and selflessness that followed could be extreme as well. A faith that gave a mild-mannered German minister the courage to change the world.

The style of this book is incredible. All the words (all! the! words!) are hand-lettered, and the images are striking and dramatic. Like the story, they're not always pretty or sanitized. Like the story, they're incredibly powerful and memorable.

And the story...well, wow. I knew little about Dietrich Bonhoeffer other than he wrote some beautiful things and died in a concentration camp, so came to the book expecting to learn about a fascinating life. I didn't expect such a thrilling and understandable summary of Germany's position in World War II and the years leading up to it. I'd never before understood quite so well how the military leaders in Germany allowed Hitler the power they did. Now I'm guilty of rambling on to anyone who will listen about German governmental structure after the Treaty of Versailles and the rate of inflation from 1921 to 1923. Very soon, when my daughter is ready to study WWII in more detail, this will be the first book I give her. (This kind of fascinating non-fiction is a homeschooler's--or any teacher's--dream.)

Finally, a random side note about Dietrich Bonhoeffer's life itself. Dietrich was the seventh of eight children all born within seven years. Many people would hear this and imagine a life of difficulty and drudgery. Many ( know...a certain French president) would assume that the mother of these children was uneducated and submissive. Yet listen to this description: "[Paula Bonhoeffer] was a caring and tender mother who loved planning elaborate costume parties for friends and her children. A woman of deep faith, she also shared Karl's devotion to science and knowledge." Not exactly the picture of misery that anti-large-family advocates would like you to see.

ALSO, do you know how many amazing people are sixth and seventh and eight (and so on) children?! I'm not saying that older children or only children or children in small families can't be great (I could name plenty who were)--but, perhaps, lady in the grocery store who eyed my six children with horror, you could remember that amazing people like Bach and Bonhoeffer and Catherine of Siena (she gets the prize for being a 25th child) wouldn't have existed if their parents had paid any heed to raised eyebrows like yours. Just saying.

You can purchase this book through Amazon by clicking on the image above or link below, and I'll get a tiny percentage of the sale. (But if you have a local indie bookstore, please support them instead of me.)

For more middle grade book reviews and recommendations, visit Greg's blog!


  1. This sounds fantastic. I'll be tracking it down for my own library. A story that needs to be told and the graphic format will entice more young readers. Also... Big families are great and my neighbors have nine kids. All of them super individuals.

  2. I have not read any books about the plot to kill Hitler, even though I'm addicted to a wide variety WWII stories. I have asked myself the same questions about how Hitler rose to such power without the checks and balances of the military. I'm not a fan of graphic novels, but I just might have to check this one out! Excellent review.

  3. Wonderful review! I didn't know Bonhoeffer came from a large family. Your thoughts brought to mind a poem I read about the famous people who weren't 1st- or 2nd-born. Can't remember the title or author... I'm sorry that you are getting horrified looks over having six children. And good for you for taking them all shopping. It is rare to see a large family. I admire mothers and fathers who choose to accept *all* the children God gives to them.

    ps: you are wise to protect your kids' innocence.

  4. This sounds like quite a book. Nice review. Thanks for the heads up. I will look for this one.


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