Sent: Way different than Found!

Sent (The Missing: Book 2) by Margaret Peterson Haddix; published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, New York, 2009; 313 pages.

Jonah and his sister Katherine clung desperately to Chip as he fell through time, back to 1483.  Chip and Alex, two of history’s missing children, were returning to the time of their birth, back into the lives of the Princes locked in the Tower of London.  Jonah’s a missing child too, adopted centuries out of his birth year, and he and his sister have promised to keep Chip (and ultimately Alex) safe.  The question is, how can they do that?  How can they preserve the original timeline but save their friends?  While they are figuring that out, they are getting a first-hand lesson in 15th Century customs, culture and royal intrigue.

I found Sent a completely different kind of book than Found, the first book in The Missing series.  A mash-up of fantasy and historical fiction, this book combined my two favorite genres (with a dash of mystery and suspense thrown in as well).  As I predicted in my review of Found (https://3amoeba.wordpress.com/?s=the+missing+book+1), this book read like Jack and Annie from Magic Tree House had grown up.  For those fans who have also grown up, I’m hopeful that The Missing will provide a long series of stories to sate their appetites.

I savored the historical setting, and appreciated Haddix’s author’s note about the historical research she conducted, especially her reference to the impact of primary documents.  Her explanations as to how she filled in the missing pieces is also relevant and provides an opportunity for teaching information literacy and research techniques.  I predict the middle schoolers who pick up this book will be more impressed by the fantasy elements and the mystery than the reality of life in 15th Century England.  But maybe their curiosity about what really happened to the Princes in the Tower will spur them on to read some nonfiction on the subject.  Hmmm, I wonder if Margaret Peterson Haddix is interested in someone to ghostwrite nonfiction companions for this series?!   I’d apply for that job in a heartbeat!  Hmm, I also think that a wise librarian would collaborate with middle school language arts and social studies teachers to use this book in cross-curricular activities….

4P     4Q     Grade Level: 4-8

Cover Art: An ominous view of the Tower of London with an ominous blood-red sky intrigues me.  Will it intrigue the intended audience?  My guess is yes.  The colors and goth art will get their attention.  I also think it will be important to let tweens and young adults know that this is a very different book than the first book in the series and that the rest of the series promises to offer more of this (book 2) type of story.

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

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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)

Haddix sequel is no Imposter

Among the Imposters by Margaret Peterson Haddix; published by Aladdin Paperbacks, an imprint of Simon & Schulster Children’s Publishing Division, New York, 2001; 172 pages.

Luke Garner is now Lee Grant. Jen’s father, George Talbot, arranged for the boy to assume the identity of a young man, the recently deceased son of Barons, so that he may escape the fate all third children are destined for: death.  Mr. Talbot delivers Lee Grant to the  Hendricks School for Boys.  Immediately, Luke/Lee is out of place, struggling to “blend in,” as Mr. Talbot’s sneaked note advised.  He is bullied by a roommate but ignored by virtually everyone else at the school: by students and teachers alike.  Even with all the struggles he finds at school, he deeply misses his family and cannot let go of his grief over Jen’s death; he wants desperately to make her death mean something.  Luke/Lee finds respite in sneaking out of the windowless school every afternoon.  He is comforted by doing familiar tasks: clearing the ground to create a garden.  When the garden is destroyed, he meets a group of boys and girls (from the neighboring girls’ school) who are all shadow children, like Luke.  Something about Jason, Luke’s abusive roommate and leader of the shadow boys, is not right.  After overhearing a terrifying phone call, Luke realizes that Jason is an officer with the Population Police.  A frantic call to Mr. Talbot results in Jason’s arrest with the secrets of Hendricks revealed: The school is a haven for shadow children.  When Mr. Hendricks and Mr. Talbot tell Luke/Lee that he is ready to move out into the “real world,” Luke proposes a way to stay and help the other children: teach them how to garden.  Since a food shortage was the impetus for the restrictions on family size, Luke reckons that fighting back with food is the logical first step in regaining independence and identity for all of the shadow children.

I finished this book in a flash.  It is the next title we’re discussing in the middle school book club I am participating in.  The tension from the opening pages set my heart pounding and it didn’t stop until the meeting with Mr. Talbot and the philanthropist Mr. Hendricks.  Haddix’s prose is spare but tight; she only provides enough information to set our “spidey senses tingling” to warn that something is not right, but she hasn’t given away the fateful twist.  I actually found this book better written than the first.  I cannot wait to hear what the teens have to say about it!  I’m not surprised that YALSA included this on the Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers list in 2002!

4P     5Q     Grade Level: 5-8 (and older Hi-Lo readers)

Cover Art: The crack of blue sky through the doorway is intriguing, as are the blurry images of the children.  Of course, anyone familiar with the first book will realize that these images depict the shadow children.  I think this cover works well for the readers of Haddix’s Shadow Children series but I don’t think it’s images would draw in other readers.

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

Shadow Children are Among the Hidden

Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix; published by Scholastic, New York, 1998; 153 pages.

Luke’s mom always wanted four children so she could name them after the Gospel writers.  But after Matthew and Mark, the government instituted a two-child limit for all families.  When she got pregnant for the third time, she hid her pregnancy and ultimately kept the child, Luke, hidden as well.  Life was restricted to the house and the farm for Luke; no school or friends like his brothers.  Then the government bought the woods that had kept their farm secluded from view to build a housing project for Barons.  Barons were made up of the few families that still had privileges in the new order.  This dystopia was created in response to a world-wide famine.  By controlling family size, crops grown, and income levels (which prevents conspicuous consumption), the government hoped to prevent another catastrophe.  Instead, they created a hidden population of “Shadow Children” and a small group of Barons that live above the rules.  Luke is shocked to discover another Shadow Child, Jen, in the new development of Barons.  It is Jen that teaches Luke about the discrepencies between the government’s rules and life before the laws.  It is Jen that works underground to create a world in which farmers grow whatever crops they want and families can have as many children as they want.  When her rally for the Shadow Children goes horribly wrong, Jen’s dad helps Luke get a fake ID to move out of the shadows.  As the story ends, Luke leaves the family farm behind and vows to free all of the children living in the shadows.

I was struck by the similarities between this book and Lois Lowry’s The Giver.  Both books feature strong teens determined to unmask their utopian societies to reveal the dystopia.  I found Among the Hidden much easier to read with very short chapters and lower-level vocabulary.  I think it would be a good alternative to The Giver for reluctant or less-capable children to read and discuss.  In addition, Among the Hidden is the first book in the Shadow Children sequence.  If children enjoyed this book, it would be easy to convince them to read the next book in the series and hopefully “hook” them on reading.

I read this book to participate in a middle school reading discussion group (thanks, Jill, for inviting me to participate and add another experience to my library education!!!).  In researching the book, I learned that it has earned numerous awards, not the least of which was YALSA’s “Top 10 Best Books for YA” in 1999.  It is also a choice for YALSA’s “Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers.”  If the discussion group likes this book, we will read the second book in the series for November.  I’m hoping they will–I’d like to learn what happens to Luke and the other Shadow Children.

4P     4Q     Grade Level: 5-8 (and older Hi-Lo readers)

AmongTheHiddenCover Art: The version I read had a pale, worried boy peering out from behind a shadowy tree trunk with other shadowy figures in the twilight image of a house.  Very interesting, it should pique the interest of the intended audience.  Why is he almost sick looking?  Why all the shadows?  It ties in very well with the title; and adding the name of the series helps generate interest as well.

From Reading List: Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults; Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers; Best Books for YA

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