Catch You Later, Traitor
Algonquin Books, 2015
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What’s this book about?
It’s 1951, and twelve-year-old Pete Collison is a regular kid in Brooklyn, New York, who loves Sam Spade detective books and radio crime dramas. But when an FBI agent shows up at Pete’s doorstep, accusing Pete’s father of being a Communist, Pete is caught in a real-life mystery. Could there really be Commies in Pete’s family?
As Pete follows the quickly accumulating clues, he begins to wonder if the truth could put his family’s livelihood—and even their freedom—at risk. It’s a funny, insightful story packed with realistic period detail of a boy in mid-twentieth-century America whose family is caught in the wide net of America’s Red Scare.
Story Behind the Story
It was the hardest book I ever wrote.
Mind, it was not the writing as such. It was because I was revisiting a world I recalled as full of fear, confusion, and danger.
I was fourteen years of age in 1951. Living in New York City (in Brooklyn) with my solid family. But this was the time of Senator Joe McCarthy, relentless anti-Communism, the Korean War, a constant fear of nuclear war, a time when you had to be careful what you said, and also careful about what you heard.
Awards and Recognition
- Bank Street College of Education Best Children’s Books 2016
- Edgar Award nominee
- IndieBound: Indie Next Great Reads
- Publishers Weekly, starred review
- School Library Journal, starred review
- Wisconsin Library Association Outstanding Book Award
“Avi, a master of historical fiction, vividly recreates not only the neighborhoods and pop culture of period Brooklyn, but the runaway paranoia that dominated daily life in the early years of the Cold War…this novel succeeds on every level.” (School Library Journal, starred review)
“Suspenseful … Authentic period details—such as popular radio programs and the ongoing rivalry between the Dodgers and the Giants—add a colorful backdrop to Pete’s quest as he navigates the murky gray area between truth and fiction. An excellent introduction to the frenzy of the McCarthy era.” (Publishers Weekly, starred review)
“It is 1951 and Senator Joseph McCarthy’s search for Communists is reaching its zenith. No one and nothing seems to be safe from his reach. Twelve-year-old Pete Collison leads a normal life. He goes to school and enjoys reading Sam Spade novels and listening to the radio, so when his teacher suddenly accuses him and his family of being Communists he has no idea why. Then the FBI shows up at his apartment and wants him to spy on his parents and report any un-American activities. When Pete starts to investigate, he is amazed when he uncovers a family history that he never knew about. In a book about secrets, Pete discovers that family is what matters most.” (IndieBound: Indie Next Great Reads)
“Avi’s tale of one Brooklyn family living in a time of intolerance effectively explores the natures of suspicion, loyalty, and freedom, following a young protagonist who comes to learn the importance of freedom of speech.” (The Horn Book)
“An involving, twisty mystery, grounded by the palpable emotional threat of Pete’s father being taken away. An accomplished historical mystery by one of kid lit’s most reliable craftspeople.” (Booklist)
“This is a perfect book to use as a catalyst to start conversations with students in classrooms and with family members around the dinner table about news like the NSA’s surveillance of private citizens or how to balance personal freedom with society’s larger protections. Readers and especially educators will find real relevance in Catch You, Later, Traitor. I love the book and had to keep on reading just to see how everything would be resolved…. I wasn’t disappointed, it is a real page turner indeed. I highly recommend this book.” (Storywraps blog)
“This is probably the best historical fiction book that I have ever read. Pete is just an ordinary boy in New York in the 1950s, that is, until his mean teacher and an FBI agent start accusing his father of being a communist. Then, after becoming a complete outcast, Pete decides to try to find the person who is telling the FBI information about his dad. And it’s the last person you would suspect! This novel is dangerously adventurous and exciting.” (BookPeople of Moscow, reviewed by Benji, 5th grade)
“Using his impeccable skill for historical detail, Avi brings us a little closer to home with the Red Scare in 1951 Brooklyn. Twelve-year-old Pete Collison finds himself ostracized by his classmates after his teacher tells his class that his father is a commie. When Pete asks his father if it’s true, the answer is not as clear cut as Pete had hoped. Pete follows the lead of his hero Sam Spade, and begins to dig into a past that refuses to give up its secrets. Prejudice, friendship, family, shady FBI agents, the Brooklyn Dodgers, the New York Giants and Sam Spade all coalesce in a perfectly paced story frosted with a delightful noir atmosphere. Available in stores next February, this is a master storyteller at his best.” (Read Me a Story, Ink, reviewed by Robert Topp)