Found: One More Good Book!

Found (The Missing: Book 1) by Margaret Peterson Haddix; published by Aladdin Paperbacks, New York, 2008; 314 pages.

Fitting in is hard, especially in adolescence.  The last thing any thirteen year old wants is to be different than his or her peers in any way.  Sometimes being adopted can be a stigma, just ask Chip; his parents kept his adoption a secret from him and he has a million questions when he finds out.  But Jonah (the book is written from his perspective) has always known he was adopted and it’s never really bothered him.  In fact, his sister, Katherine, who is just a year younger and a “birth child,” is jealous of his adoption.  When strange letters start arriving for Chip and Jonah (“Beware! They’re coming back to get you.”), and when the neighborhood’s population starts growing with adopted thirteen year old children, a mystery begins to unravel.  A thirteen year old mystery.  Chip, Jonah and Katherine work on unraveling the mystery.  When people begin appearing and disappearing before their eyes, the riddle takes on a new dimension.  The trio is unable to unlock the secret before they are locked in a time hollow.  Will these missing children of history make it back to their own time, leap ahead to an unknown future, or work their way back to the time in which they grew up?

Haddix has done it again.  She has created likable characters in beguiling situations.  I think the premise of The Missing is outrageously delicious as Haddix has set up the scenario for Chip, Jonah and Katherine to travel through time learning about different eras in history while saving the missing children of history.  Hooray, this may be the Magic Tree House series for middle schoolers, but with much more meat on the bones to chew on.  It is already a popular selection among upper elementary students: It won the Buckeye Children’s Book Award for 2009 in the Grades 3-5 category!

Like the Shadow Children series, Haddix has created a fantasy world that should make middle school students ask questions.  Obvious questions include those about adoption, and less obvious include the “opportunity costs” of decisions.  I read this book for the next middle school book club meeting and I can’t wait to hear their comments on these topics.

Write on, Margaret Peterson Haddix, write on!

4/8/2010 Note: Just got back from the middle school book club discussion of this book.  Except for “Negative Nell,” who has hated every book we’ve read this year, this was a hit.  Most of the negative comments were about the confusion and flurry of information at the end of the book.  For example, they all wondered why any kids in this day and age would unquestioningly follow strange adults into a hidden cave far from their parents.  Some kids didn’t like the “Star Trek” feel to the ending.  But they all liked the premise of the story.  It sounded like they all will be reading Book 2, if only because they feel “skunked” into reading it because of the cliffhanger ending.  I hinted that the next book is completely different, with more traditional adventure cloaked in a little sci-fi and history.  That made some more anxious to read on.  This may be the only book this year that was unanimously enjoyed (Negative Nell excluded).

4P     4Q     Grade Level: 4-8

Cover Art: A blurry action shot of teens running toward the cave (which readers know is the time machine, so to speak) is interesting.  Haddix’s name in large type is what will get readers’ attention, however.  And I would point out to the teen readers that the cover art is a mashup of stock photos; they can do something similar themselves!  I think this cover is far more intriguing than the airplane shot on the hardcover edition.

From Reading List: The Way It Could Be (Science Fiction or Fantasy)


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