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The Spy Catchers of Maple Hill

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  398 ratings  ·  95 reviews
Hazel Kaplansky is a firm believer in the pursuit of knowledge and truth-and she also happens to love a good mystery. When suspicions swirl that a Russian spy has infiltrated her small town of Maple Hill, Vermont, amidst the fervor of Cold War era McCarthyism, Hazel knows it's up to her to find a suspect… starting with Mr. Jones, the quietly suspicious grave digger. Plus s ...more
Hardcover, 312 pages
Published May 6th 2014 by Bloomsbury USA Childrens (first published February 4th 2014)
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Average rating 3.59  · 
Rating details
 ·  398 ratings  ·  95 reviews

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Aug 30, 2014 rated it it was ok
Really did not care for this book; I disliked Hazel as well as almost all the other characters. Numerous oddities seemed to spring out (yet ANOTHER reference to a librarian having a master's degree--enough with the Education, okay? sincerely doubt a ten-year-old girl would have noticed, known, or cared, especially since later she doesn't know what a PhD is; a reference to a black-and-white TV, as if there was any other kind; a fairly lengthy discussion about a book that hadn't been published yet ...more
Barb Middleton
Feb 23, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: historical, mystery
We went to Hawaii for a week and I read eight books and decided to write the reviews when I got back. Great plan except this book is a blank slate or blank plate. I'm hungry. I had to go back and reread other reviews to remind myself what it was about. Like butter on top of a pancake, the characters and plot just went poof! sliding off and out of my memory. Hazel, the protagonist, is swept up in the hysteria of McCarthyism during the Cold War. Rumors have it that there is a Russian spy in Hazel' ...more
May 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
Review first published on RedeemedReader

I thoroughly enjoyed Blakemore's The Water Castle which just came out last year. So, when I had the chance to scoop up her next one as a pre-publication copy at ALA this January, I jumped at it. Spy Catchers is geared to a slightly younger audience than Water Castle and has a different feel entirely.

Hazel Kaplansky is a young sleuth hot on the heels of a presumed spy. She's growing up amidst the fear of the McCarthy era, and therefore has come to the firm
Jan 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
The Spy Catchers of Maple Hill threw me off at first because I didn’t realize it was going to be set back during the Cold War. Once I adjusted to the time period, I was easily swept up into Hazel’s world. As a girl, I was a huge Nancy Drew fan and found of inventing my own mysteries. Hazel takes the cake at mystery hunting as she embarks on finding out the truth about who the spies are in her town. She finds some bumps along the road as she befriends a boy named Samuel, who seems to have his own ...more
Suzanne Dix
Hazel Kaplansky is a growing up in scary times: the McCarthy era of secrets and spies. Hazel, a ten year old only child, is taking the circumstances very seriously, secretly converting a mausoleum into a bomb shelter and watching carefully for suspicious and traitorous acts within her hometown. Her parents, caretakers of Maple Hill, the town’s cemetery, are oblivious to Hazel’s worries and schemes as they are wrapped up in their own passion with botany and the beautification of the cemetery. Haz ...more
Apr 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
I liked that this mystery was written with respect towards children. The main character in the story, Hazel Kaplansky, is convinced that the grave digger at her parents' cemetery is a communist. She has little evidence - only the knowledge that he regularly cares for the grave of a child named Alice.
Many children's mysteries written for children tend to be a little shallow - ordinarily Hazel would prove her case, and then the bad guys would chase after her. But, this is real life, and it's Haze
Jul 24, 2014 rated it liked it
I was hoping for more of a mystery with more clues, but it came to a satisfying ending. My favorite parts were probably when Hazel was extolling the virtues of libraries and herself:

p. 45: If her parents were ever to die in a horrible, tragic accident, she hoped that Miss Lerner would adopt her, and they would catalog books all the time.

p. 46: The people in the books she liked to read were always taking strolls in the fresh country air to clear their heads and their lungs, and so it made her fee
Jul 06, 2014 rated it liked it

This is often categorized as a mystery, but really it's more of a misunderstanding, so I consider it to just be straight-up historical fiction. Not too many mystery-lovers would be satisfied with this book, I think, but historical fiction lovers would enjoy it.
I found Hazel at turns adorable and beyond irritating. Her runaway imagination is endearing but her know-it-allness was not, but I guess that's kind of a common kid trait, so.
Overall this was a very solid book, imparting (gently) some
Julie Pickett
May 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
As someone who grew up in the 50's and 60's, I can vividly remember the fallout shelters, the civil
defense drills in school, and the fear of the Russians. Not to mention my obsession with
Nancy Drew. My friends and sister and I had a race to see who could read them all first.
Therefore this story, and Hazel Kaplansky, with her obsessive drive to solve a mystery, ran very true to me.
I loved this book - a mystery, a comedy, historical fiction, and ultimately, a book about friendship and trust.
Megan has done it again! Middle grade readers will connect with Hazel and as she navigates the world and forges friendships in this historical fiction novel.
Jen Petro-Roy
Jan 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely fantastic. Megan Frazer Blakemore is one of my favorite middle grade authors and I think this is my favorite yet of hers. I utterly adored Hazel. This was great on audio, too.
Jun 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Wonderful main character, excellent as an audio. Looking forward to more from this author.
Diane Whittaker
Jan 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
I really liked it. The best quote "My moms a great cook as long as it comes out of a can!" Hazel is a young lady who likes to "judge the book or people by what the cover looks like" If the paper says it's true it must be? Seems like the typical town. The old person who keeps a record of everyone and everything whom would like for people to talk to. The town library, One librarian is overbearing thinking of Hazel as a young person. While the other tries to give her different ways to think about l ...more
Jun 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
1953 story of a small Vermont town disrupted by a Red scare and investigation. The story is told from the view of a mystery-loving school girl whose best friend has recently moved away. She learns about jumping to conclusions, friendship, importance of knowing the past, how some people really are just bullies, and apologies. Brings up some weighty issues such as séances and premarital sex, but only briefly and with an innocence appropriate to juvenile fiction. Author's note at end explains more ...more
Mona House
Nov 15, 2018 rated it liked it
This was a fun little read my boys (11 and 9) enjoyed it more than I did. I thought a lot of the dialogue was cheesy but my boys didn't seem to think so.
There where a lot of very obscure historical references that I thought would make it hard to hold their interest but instead it lead to some fun conversations. If we had had more time we would have probably researched some of the things mentioned.
My 11 year old said that preferred this book over other mysteries like 39 clues because the situatio
Feb 19, 2018 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: Nobody.
The Premise: Blah, blah blah, blah. Blah blah! Blah blah blah, blah, blah blah blah blah. Blah blah. Blah! Blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah. Blah, blah, blah blah, blah, blah. Blah.

I didn't finish it because it dragged on so much. I could barely even tell what the characters were trying to do, because the plot was so boring. Also, I read this book a while ago, so I don't exactly remember the characters, but Hazel... ugh. I forgot what exactly was so terrible about her, but I couldn't stand he
Jun 22, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: audio
I didn’t connect with the characters as much as I usually do. Hazel can be clueless and sometimes annoying. There’s the usual mean girl, inattentive parents, teachers who don’t understand, smart loner boy who keeps to himself. Set in the Cold War during the McCarthy era.

Note- listened to the audio book and it was decent
Ashley Coberly
Jun 27, 2019 rated it it was ok
This was a random audiobook choice from the library. I don’t do that often and this book is the reason- a little too close to demonic spirits and a lot of information on an unwed teenage mother that lead to some eye opening conversations with my 11 and 9 year olds.
Aug 21, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: cooper, asher
The kids enjoyed it. I was a bit surprised by some of the more mature topics covered (alcoholism, pregnancy out of wedlock, etc). I just wasn't expecting it from the cover art.
Aug 28, 2018 rated it liked it
This book is not a mystery. It is part "Harriet the Spy" and part "Because of Winn Dixie", without the satisfying ending of either of them.
Jun 06, 2019 rated it did not like it
Listened to one hour of the audio. Gave up.
Jul 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Very good mystery especially for any middle schooler.
Jul 25, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: ya, own, gave-away
My 11yo son and I read this together. The story was average, but it did give us an opportunity to talk about Communism, the MCarthy era, and political bullies, which proves to be very timely.
Jan 24, 2014 rated it liked it
This is a review for an uncorrected Advanced Readers Copy.

Cover Blurb: Yes or No? It is rather kiddish, and while this is a kids' book, I'm not generally a fan of overly kid cover art. But it isn't a horrible cover, either. It works in its own way.

Characters: Hazel Kaplansky makes this story. She is absolute fun and witty and intelligent. She jumps to a lot of conclusions that cause a lot of problems, so sometimes I wanted to smack her. But at the same time, she was just a kid with an active ima
Cheriee Weichel
Sep 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
After a slow start, I got completely absorbed by this book. I think for younger readers who have no background knowledge of the McCarthy era, a reading of the Author's note at the back of the book, will provide them with a context to fit the story into.
Anyway, here is the post from my blog at

There is so much to love about this book, I really don't know where to begin.
The novel is set in the 1950's in a small town in Vermont, USA.

In the Author's note at the back
Katie Fitzgerald
Hazel Kaplansky is a know-it-all, a spitfire, and, she hopes, a sleuth in training. In 1953 Vermont, she believes she is hot on the trail of a Communist. Senator McCarthy has targeted the local factory as a possible harbor for spies, and Hazel is sure that Paul Jones, the gravedigger who works for her parents at their cemetery, is their leader. She partners with Samuel - a level-headed new boy in her class whose family has its own share of mysteries - to uncover the clues she needs to prove her ...more
Mar 13, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2014

Though there is a bit of mystery-solving and clue-hunting involved, this actually reads more like a contemporary novel. I do like that there's an important lesson to be learned here, and the setting too. But I couldn't find much of a connection with the characters, or summon up strong interest in the story overall.


Honestly, I can admit that a comparison to Harriet the Spy is what made me immediately want to pick up The Spy Catchers of Maple Hill. I loved Harriet (and Nancy
Aug 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
"The Spy Catchers of Maple Hill" is an engaging mystery adventure for middle -graders that's set in a dark period in American history when Senator McCarthy's anti-Communism crusade and the threat of a nuclear attack stimulated peoples' fear. In this atmosphere of anxiety and uncertainty whispers, rumours and lies swirl through Maple Hill after an investigation is hatched to uncover Communist spies among the unionized employees at the Switzer Switch and Safe Factory.

In this setting Hazel Kaplansk
Shannon Hayes
Nov 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Ula grabbed this book off the library shelf one day while I was ushering her out in a hurry. Neither she nor I had any idea what it was about. But the girls and I sat down to read it aloud together, and I am so glad we did. The star of this book, pre-teen Hazel Kaplansky, brings to mind Harriet the Spy in her detective interests, but the similarities stop there. The book takes place in a small town in Vermont in 1953, when McCarthyism is terrorizing the country, schools are doing air raid drills ...more
Feb 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
Originally posted here

Perfect! Middle! Grade! Mystery! Hearts in my eyes!

That could be my whole review and that would honestly be an excellent review. I loved and adored The Spy Catchers of Maple Hill. I wish there were more books like this one when I was in elementary/middle school. Heck. I wish there were more books like this out now. The Spy Catchers of Maple Hill is just an overall cute story. The main character is Hazel, and Hazel is a little out there in the eyes of her classmates and the
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Megan Frazer Blakemore is an author for children and young adults. She lives with her husband and children in Maine. She has worked in both school and public libraries, and is currently pursuing a doctorate in library science at Simmons SLIS.

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