word craft


Catch You Later, Traitor

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.

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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)

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