In this Bookstorm™:
Catch You Later, Traitor
written by Avi
Algonquin Books for Young Readers, 2015
The early 1950s in the United States was a time when soldiers and medical personnel had returned home from the two theaters of World War II, Communism was talked about as something to be feared, and colleagues and neighbors were asked to testify against people who were suspected to be Communists in America. The nation was caught up in reports from the House Un-American Activities Committee and Senator Joseph McCarthy. The Federal Bureau of Investigations was concerned about citizens who were disloyal to America. The air was heavy with suspicion and people were encouraged to fear intellectuals, immigrants, and Hollywood.
It was a time when baseball soared. The Brooklyn Dodgers, the New York Giants, and the New York Yankees were the most famous teams of the day. Radio was the primary source for news and entertainment. Televisions weren’t yet a part of every household.
In Avi’s novel, 12-year-old Pete Collison is a regular kid who loves Sam Spade detective books and radio crime dramas, but when an FBI agent shows up at Pete’s doorstep accusing his father of being a Communist, Pete finds himself caught in a real-life mystery. Could there really be Commies in Pete’s family? This look at what it felt like to be an average family caught in the wide net of the Red Scare has powerful relevance to contemporary questions of democracy and individual freedom.
In each Bookstorm™, we offer a bibliography of books that have close ties to the the featured book. For Catch You Later, Traitor, you’ll find books for a variety of tastes, interests, and reading abilities. Catch You Later, Traitor will be comfortably read by ages 10 through adult. We’ve included picture books, novels, and nonfiction for the plethora of purposes you might have. This Bookstorm™ has a few more books for adults than usual, believing that a background in the era will be helpful for educators who weren’t alive during, or wish to brush up on, the time in which this book takes place.
McCarthy Era, also known as the Red Scare. Surprisingly, there aren’t very many books written for young readers about this intense time in history, but we’ve selected a few that will align well with Catch You Later, Traitor.
Nonfiction. There are a greater number of nonfiction books available about the early 1950s, including lifestyle books, the Cold War, fashion, the Hollywood Ten, and spies.
Communism, Socialism in the United States. Were you aware that a group of Finnish-Americans moved to Russia to set up a Utopian community based on promises from Russian leader Joseph Stalin?
Witch Hunts. A classic book, a classic play, and a fascinating look at an incident of the “Red Scare” in children’s books.
Mid-Century United States. Superb recommendations for books, both fiction and nonfiction, set in the 1950s. Reading several of these along with Catch You Later, Traitor will give students an excellent flavor of the time, which offers a mirror for other periods in history as well as the present.
Baseball in the 1950s. It was the most talked-about sport in the country, claiming headlines and tuning radios in to listen to “the game.” We’ve gathered a wide-ranging set of books that will include something for every reader, from picture books to books for adults.
Noir Detective Fiction. We mentioned Sam Spade, but what exactly does “noir” mean? Here are good examples, spanning early chapter books such as Chet Gecko to a graphic novel like City of Spies to Dashiell Hammett’s Maltese Falcon.
Old-Time Radio. There are whole radio programs online to be shared with your classroom, along with a series on YouTube that depicts the workings of a radio studio, and Avi’s own novel about the heyday of radio serials.
Techniques for using each book: