Review: The Lost Spy and the Green Dress

The Lost Spy and the Green Dress

by Alex Paz-Goldman, translated by Linda Yechiel

Green Bean Books, 2022

Category: Middle Grade
Reviewer: Beth L. Gallego

Buy at

The world around Motti Friedman is full of intrigue. It is 1964, he is 12 years old, and he is absolutely certain there are spies living in his neighborhood outside of Ramat Gan. With his best friend Reuven, he will follow in the footsteps of the heroes of his favorite books - The Secret Seven, The Young Detectives, and Eight on the Track of One - and reveal at least one hidden spy. Trailing a suspect through the streets is much more exciting than doing his homework in the tiny, run-down apartment where his mother is forever at her sewing machine, and his father, unable to work since his recent stay in a convalescent home, sits reading the newspaper. Embarrassed by what he sees as the weaknesses of his parents, Holocaust survivors who rarely speak of the past, Motti wants to prove himself brave, strong, and clever, part of the generation that will shape Israel’s future.

Real life turns out to be less straightforward than his beloved mysteries, without clear lines between heroes and villains. Everyone has secrets, and it is easier than he ever thought to betray a trust.

Many of Motti’s struggles are familiar: trying to differentiate himself from his parents, accidentally hurting a friend while trying to help, and being confused by the beginnings of romantic attraction. These timeless adolescent concerns are placed in 1960s Israel, drawn with vibrant detail by Paz-Goldman, who was born in Israel to Holocaust-survivor parents himself. The heavy themes in the background, including poverty, mental illness, and grief, never overpower the youthful energy and spirit of adventure of the novel. It is a thoughtful, nuanced portrayal of a slice of modern Jewish history through the eyes of a young person right in the middle of it, and a thrilling mystery with nods to classic children’s literature. 
Completely charming, and a strong contender for the Sydney Taylor Book Award. 

Are you interested in reviewing books for The Sydney Taylor Shmooze? Click here!

Reviewer Beth L. Gallego grew up outside Chicago, earned her Master’s degree in Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois, and promptly moved to sunny Southern California, where she has been a Librarian since 2002.