By Margaret Peterson Haddix
Published by Simon & Schuster
Copyright © 2010
Another Dare-ing adventure through time with JB, Katherine, and Jonah. Our time traveling trio will try to solve the history mystery of the Roanoke Colony.
Jonah and Katherine are set to take Andrea back in time to merge with her tracer and do what needs to be done to repair the timeline. Their destination is coastal North Carolina around the end of the 16th century where, and when, the Roanoke colony suddenly disappeared. There seems to be a change in the travel plans though when an unknown stranger causes a problem with the elucidator and they don’t get dropped where they should on the timeline. Not only that, but they lose the elucidator and they have no contact with JB. Does he even know where they are? Jonah, Katherine, and Andrea are going to have to figure out how to fix time on their own if they are to have any hope of escape.
Haddix has found a way to mix science fiction and social studies education together in a neat package with “The Missing” series. Many kids aren’t that interested in history itself, but what happens if you time travel and get dropped into the middle of history? Now that is interesting! I commend Haddix because she researches her history well and feeds the story pertinent information about it as needed to move story along. Nowhere does she add a history lesson for the sake of a history lesson. Kids would sniff this out in a heartbeat. Social Studies education is sorely lacking in American primary education today, and I applaud anyone who can include it in the creation of entertainment.
From a pure enjoyment stand point, children 8 years old and up will enjoy this series. They will love the time travel plot where it takes a couple of kids to save time. They will also enjoy its main characters. Haddix does a good job of writing the sibling interaction between Jonah and Katherine so children with brothers or sisters will really feel it. The author also helps the tone of her plot by not making the book too humorous. Part of the fun of time travel sci-fi is the childlike belief that it is just within reach of the realm of possibility, even though we know it isn’t. Too many laughs would probably keep pushing the story out of that realm.
For me personally, I loved the first book but I couldn’t latch on to the second and third wholeheartedly. This third book at 360 pages just moves too slowly for me with all the questions of what the characters should and shouldn’t do and explanations of time and tracer movement. What keeps me going in this series is the history. I was interested in knowing how the author explained the Roanoke Colony’s disappearance, and I was quite pleased with that. I understand, however, how all the explanations help young readers to wrap their mind around the story and take it seriously. I would definitely recommend using this book in conjunction with language arts to bring more attention to history in our classrooms. Stories like this just might grab a child’s attention and make them want to learn on their own.
By Stuart Gibbs
Published by Harper
Copyright © 2011
Meet the Three Musketeers before they were the Musketeers in this thrilling middle ages, middle school adventure.
Greg Rich comes from, well, a rich family. Over the years, however, they have squandered their wealth until it has come to the point that Greg’s parents have to sell the family estate. Fortunately for them there is someone who is more than willing to take everything off of their hands. Michael Dinicoeur, a representative of the Louvre in Paris, France, buys everything from the Rich estate and flies the family to France to deliver their many antiquities. But something just doesn’t seem right to Greg and as they hand over the last item he soon learns that his gut is right. He and his family are thrust back in time and his parents are captured. If he is going to save them and the world he is going to have to find Athos, Porthos, Aramis, and D’Artagnan to help him.
“The Last Musketeer” is a fabulous romp back in time. It is full of action, adventure, and history. There is sword play (though I wish there was more), cannon fire, doppelgangers, secret missions, and narrow escapes. Gibbs also does well in describing what Paris of 1615 looks and smells like. He doesn’t glamorize it as some movies and books do. It’s really quite gross, which makes it perfect for boys age 10 and up. Really though, any youth (boy or girl) with an interest in historical fiction, especially the Musketeers, will like this book.
Okay For Now
By Gary D. Schmidt
Published by Clarion Books
Copyright © 2011
Doug’s father has lost his job again and he has an offer of a job in a paper mill in a little town in upstate New York called Marysville. Doug isn’t really enthused about moving away from the city and his favorite team the New York Yankees, but it is no use to complain because his father will probably yell at him and pop him in the mouth. Things are going okay for Doug he makes a few friends, learns he has a talent he didn’t know he had, and even gets a job of his own. But if there is anything that Doug knows it is that when things are going too good something bad is bound mess it up. His brother and his dad seem more than willing to oblige and make things worse for Doug. Doug’s father has no problem stealing from his own son, and his brother, who has a habit of making the wrong impression, gets a reputation that unfairly attaches itself to Doug. Can Doug find a way to deal with his dad, and prove everyone in town wrong?
“Okay For Now” is complex tale of survival and betterment. Set in 1968 against the backdrop of the Vietnam War, the Apollo space missions, and of course Doug’s beloved baseball player Doug Pepitone playing for the Yankees, Doug not only has to learn to Navigate a new town with new people but he has to navigate his home life with an abusive father and brother and the return of his oldest brother who comes home from Vietnam with life altering injuries. To cope with this Doug throws himself into his job of delivering groceries, learning to draw from the works of John James Audubon, and ultimately taking up his mission to make a special book whole again. In addition to all of this “Okay For Now” tells a tale of how important it is not judge people or places by their appearance, relations, sex, career, or etc. because often the conclusion that we come to are the furthest thing from the truth.
I found this book to be a moving and occasionally funny book of survival, recovery, redemption, and so much more. As I’m reading this book I’m thinking how badly I want Doug’s father to get what’s coming to him, however Gary Schmidt even finds a way to weave some redemption in there for him giving Doug hope for life to improve. This was one of those stories that once I got started I just had know how every thing would be resolved. I finished it in a day; it was that good. I highly recommend this book for children ages 10 and up.
Filed under Art, Coming of Age, Communities, Elementary/Middle School, Families, Friendship, Historical, Junior Fiction, Loss/Death, Love/Romance, Nature/Animals
Published by Harper Books
Copyright © 2011
Artie is the youngest in his family and one of his older cousins gets great pleasure in picking on him. During one such occasion Artie lets his pride, and his mouth, get the best of him and he promises to get everyone firecrackers for Chinese New Year. The only problem is that he doesn’t have any money, and when he gets money he usually spends it too quickly. Fortunately for him his Uncle Chester steps in and promises to help him. Uncle Chester is a nice guy, everyone around town likes Chester, but Chester isn’t very good with money either. Before New Year Chester falls on tough times with some bad bets and it doesn’t look like he is going to be able to help Artie. Artie is more worried about his uncle than he is about his fireworks.
As usual, Yep’s story takes us inside the Chinese American life informing us on Chinese Culture, lore, and history while telling an enjoyable story. While I don’t think this is his best effort (I was a big fan of Dragon Road) this is a nice multicultural story for children ages 8 and up that focuses not just on culture, but on such topics as not gambling, not letting your mouth get you in trouble, learning not to pick on others, along with other topics.
By Gary Paulsen
Wendy Lamb Books
Copyright © 2010
13 year old Samuel lives in Western Pennsylvania. He and his family live in what, at that time, is the American frontier. Samuel helps to feed his family by hunting deer and bear. He loves being in the forest; from it he has learned to hear what others don’t hear and see what others don’t see. Most of all he has learned to be independent and survive. While life is tough out on the frontier it is a good quiet life. All of that is shattered by the start of the American Revolutionary war. One day Samuel is out hunting and when he gets back he finds his home and many other homes in the area burned to the ground. Many of his neighbors have been killed for no reason, but a select few have been taken prisoner, his parents being among them. So Samuel sets off to rescue his parents. This is going to take all of what Samuel has learned about tracking and shooting as well as help from some good people along the way.
Paulsen has written an exciting and realistic Revolutionary War story, and he has done a great job at not glamorizing this war as so many other stories do. Paulsen’s description of this war includes descriptions of wounds, illnesses, poor living conditions, and the outright savageness of attacks. While it is sometimes rough information, I wouldn’t call it too graphic; it is tasteful but truthful. Paulsen’s fictitious account is action packed, moving, and historically accurate. This book is suitable, and enjoyable, for children ages 11 and up.
The Missing: Book 2 – Sent
By Margaret Haddix Peterson
Published by Simon & Schuster Books
Copyright © 2009
In this second book of the Missing series, “Sent”, Margaret Haddix Peterson sends her readers on a whirlwind adventure through time.
In the first book, “Found”, Jonah and 35 other kids find out that not only are they adopted, but they were snatched from time and regressed to being infants. JB, short for the time cop known as Janitor Boy by Jonah and Katherine wants to send them back to their original times. He succeeds in sending Chip and Alex back to their time in the 15th century, but Jonah and Katherine grab hold of them and go with them.
Chip and Alex are actually Edward V King of England and Richard Duke of York. Unfortunately history is to play out so that they die at a young age. Instead of yanking Jonah and Katherine back to the 21st century, JB agrees to let them try to fix time without letting Chip and Alex die. Will they all get back safely?
In “Sent” readers are given a bit of history lesson. The history lesson is weaved almost seamlessly into the story though. There was a bit more intrigue in the first book which made it harder to put down, but this was still a great book of historical science fiction/fantasy that , while slow at times, made you want to keep reading. I personally have to keep reading because I want to know who Jonah and the other kids were originally.