Purnell, Sonia. A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win WWII. New York: Viking Press, 2019.

If you’ve not heard of Virginia Hall, that would have suited her just fine.  As one of the most successful spies of WWII, she excelled at being known only to those who needed to know.  A woman with a prosthetic leg in a time when spies were supposed to be young Ivy League men, she was the most unlikely of spies, overlooked and underestimated.  In many ways, the situation helped her excel at her job, despite being undermined and nearly exposed by those who were on her side.  The information she provided went a long way toward the defeat of the Germans and helped coordinate the efforts of the French Resistance.

A Woman of No Importance brings to the fore issues of societal expectations and living outside the norm, perseverance in one’s character and physical body, and unbelievable sacrifice for a cause.  It documents the beginnings of state-sanctioned spying in England and the United States and shows how the groundwork of modern intelligence agencies was formed.

Although this book is a little dense in some sections, the intrigue, excitement, and narrow escape or capture of the characters will keep readers on the edge of their seats. Named one of NPR’s Best Books of 2019, it would make a strong addition to any display highlighting Women’s History Month coming up in March.

Dewey: 940.54                                                                   Interest Level: Grades 10 to adult

Reviews and Awards: Booklist Starred, Kirkus Reviews, Library Journal, New York Times, Publishers Weekly, NPR’s Best Books of 2019.

Younger Readers might like: The Dark Game: True Spy Stories from Invisible Ink to a CIA Mole by Paul B. Janeczko. (Grades 5-8)

Fiction Pairing:  Middle School: Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz

High School: Orphan, Monster, Spy by Matt Killeen

On the web:  The CIA’s website has a “Spy Kids” section with kid-appropriate articles on the goings-on at the CIA, including Spy Dogs, Stories, and Games at https://www.cia.gov/kids-page/index.html.