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Summary: Middle school can be very lonely. For Jewel, Dupar, Anna, Rad, Mike, and Sammy it was really lonely. Short on friends, every day at school was a challenge for each of them. Although very different people, they came to know each through a counseling group at school. When they discover that a teacher has been kidnapped, they banded together to save her ... and learned a lot about themselves in the process. This is a middle-grade adventure written for reluctant readers.
Type of Reading: family reading, independent reading, reluctant reader, remedial reader
Recommended Age: read together: 9 to 12; read yourself: 9 to 12
Interest Level: 9 to 12
Reading Level: 2.9
Age of Child: Read by two students at Denbigh High School (Newport News, VA) as part of our Use Your ABCs program.
Young Reader Reaction: Student 1: I picked this book because of the title. I thought it had something to do with the winners. The first chapter is the mystery, and I wanted to keep reading to find out what happened. This was a good mystery. I would buy this book for people who like to read mysteries. Student 2: I liked the book. It was so interesting and exciting. I don't usually like to read but this one was great. I couldn't put the book down. I recommend this book to anyone who likes mysteries and action. This is an interesting book. It's for all ages and I recommend it. I would borrow this book because once is enough. I already know what is going to happen. I would lend it to a friend about my age because it's exciting and interesting.
Adult Reader Reaction: The author has a great premise, and kids on the periphery of popularity will see themselves in the group. Although I don' think this isn't her intention, the author set out the premise that being heroic can help your self esteem. The kids decide secretly to go after the kidnappers, lying to their parents, leaving town, and not calling the police. Everything works out in the end, but their choices aren't to be recommended ... and the consequences to the kids weren't stressed enough. Because she creates real-world characters (i.e., not wizards) and draws on typical teen conflicts, the book needs to offer responsible advice and resolution. If not in the plot, then as an information sheet at the end.
Pros: Upper elementary and middle school students will relate to the characters, their challenges, and their desire to be accepted as responsible individuals.
Cons: Given today's society, we need to be more careful about how we present stories where kids are trying to "solve cases," particularly when it includes lying to their parents and crossing state borders. The idea of guessing which character wrote the story is a cute idea, but it isn't executed through the story itself (i.e., no clues or references along the way). Student 2: I didn't like that these kids did things on a moment's notice without thinking it through.
Borrow or Buy: Borrow. This is a good story, but once the mystery is solved, you're not likely to go back to it.
Educational Themes: This is a very good book for independent reading and an excellent book for read-aloud. The author's presentation also allows for role-playing. There are a number of themes that teachers, parents, and counselors can draw on, from individual choices to social responsibility.
Notes: The author donated a copy of this book knowing that we would consider it for review and provide an independent, unbiased profile. This book will be given to a nonprofit to help readers in need.