Who says girls don't like comic books?!
These were fantastic explorations of comic book inspired tween super-powered girls in WWII who work with the world's first computer programmers, known as the ENIAC Six, and the women who wrote the algorithms for our troops on the ground, fighting Nazis and fascists.
Each book features four sections of several pages of comic-book art and text that both illustrate and further the plot. It's a sure-fire way to engage and hold onto reluctant readers or just readers who still need or enjoy a visual element as they read. The art, by Patrick Spaziante, even caught my husband's attention, and he's a hard-core Marvel/ DC reader!
The story's pretty simple: super heroes have vanished from America, right when we need them the most -- WWII. No one knows why. Just...they're gone, and apparently not coming back.
Enter 12-year-old Josephine O'Malley, who's doing her "part" for the war effort by busing tables at a local diner. She knows it's important, but it sure doesn't feel heroic. There's a cypher contest and it's a few days before the last day of school. Despite what the boy bullies in the neighborhood say, she's determined to try out, maybe make more money to help pay her mom's rent.
At the test, Josie meets Akiko Nakano, whose family is being kept in a Japanese internment camp, and Mae Eugenia Crumpler, of Chicago, who's Black. But the test administrator, a man named "Hissler" dumps all the girls' exams into the garbage. (You know where this is headed, right? Hiss-ler? Hitler, but with scales? What a snake!)
He's caught in the act, and Ms. Boudica, one of the women programmers, catches him and invites the girls to see what the programmers do, although they don't get to see what's going on in the mysterious, top-secret Room 12. She bears a striking resemblance to a "missing" super hero.
The girls scheme their way back into the building, determined to figure out what the women in Room 12 are doing (and it's better than being in school on the last day, when you do absolutely nothing, right?) at the exact same moment there's a confrontation between Hissler and The Stretcher, one of the last remaining legendary superheros. The Stretcher erupts in a flash of white light, leaving behind only his cape, mask and boots (Hint: Look at the titles!), which the girls pick up and put on.
Each book then features their adventures against the various villains: the Hissler and an evil clown named Side-Splitter. Shudder. Clowns really are scary.
I won't spoil how the girls learn to master their powers and save the day.
Just know Mask ends on a cliff-hangar, and I'm eagerly awaiting (like any good comic book fan!) the next book, which I'm assuming will be Boots!
Enjoy the read!