Author Sheila Turnage set her most recent middle grade novel, Island of Spies, on Cape Hatteras during its “Torpedo Junction” days in 1942 because of something her father told her when she was nine. During a trip to Hatteras Island with her family, they noticed oil along the shore. That oil, her father said, was from sunken German U-Boats.
After years of trips to the beach, stories of blackouts along the coast in 1942, and lots of research, that mention became the story of 12-year-old Stick Lawson and her friends, Rain and Neb. A trio of curious misfits, The Dime Novel Kids, as they call themselves, have front row seats to the U-Boats attacking the shipping lane off the NC coast. Soon, they begin an investigation to find out if a German spy is living in their small seaside community. Using their combined wits and the rules they’ve learned from reading dime novels–including Rule #4: “In times of danger, always bet on each other”–the Dimes uncover a trove of secrets.
Turnage’s research led her to some interesting, and often unacknowledged, history. In 1942, Cape Hatteras had the highest incidence of U-boat bombings in WWII and by June of that year, 397 merchant ships were sunk and the area was nicknamed “Torpedo Junction.” Due to the escalating war in the Pacific, it took the U.S. Navy six months to respond and send adequate help. During that time the locals were mostly left to fend for themselves.
Kirkus Reviews says, “Turnage takes a little-known piece of American history and sets it solidly among realistic characters and an entertaining saga of island life.” Published in September 2022 by Dial Books for Young Readers, Island of Spies (9780735231252) is aimed at readers aged 8-12.
Sheila Turnage will make an appearance at Downtown Books in Manteo on July 7 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. to sign copies of her middle grade novel as part of the town’s First Friday celebration.
Sheila Turnage is the author of the award-winning Mo & Dale mysteries, including Three Times Lucky, a Newbery Honor Book, New York Times bestseller, and Edgar Award finalist; The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing, also a New York Times bestseller and recipient of five starred reviews; and The Odds of Getting Even and The Law of Finders Keepers, both recipients of numerous starred reviews. Sheila is also the author of two nonfiction adult books, a poetry collection, and a picture book, Trout the Magnificent, illustrated by Janet Stevens.
For more information, visit www.sheilaturnage.com.