capture the flag

Wednesday, July 4, 2012 |
When I picked up Kate Messner’s middle grade adventure Capture the Flag at the Scholastic booth at Book Expo America last month, I knew it would be the perfect book to review on July 4th, the United States’ Independence Day.  I mean, a book about the famous flag that inspired the national anthem is… as patriotic as it gets.

capture the flag by kate messner book coverThree kids get caught up in an adventure of historic proportions!

Anna, José, and Henry are complete strangers with more in common than they realize. Snowed in together at a chaotic Washington D.C. airport, they encounter a mysterious tattooed man, a flamboyant politician, and a rambunctious poodle named for an ancient king. Even stranger, news stations everywhere have announced that the famous flag that inspired "The Star-Spangled Banner" has been stolen! Anna, certain that the culprits must be snowed in too, recruits Henry and José to help catch the thieves and bring them to justice.

But when accusations start flying, they soon realize there's more than justice at stake. As the snow starts clearing, Anna, José, and Henry find themselves in a race against time (and the weather!) to prevent the loss of an American treasure.

Anna, José and Henry are three of the hundreds of people stuck at a Washington, DC airport during a snowstorm when the world finds out that an extremely old and historic flag has been stolen from the Smithsonian Museum of American History.  Anna, an aspiring news reporter, is determined to get the real story, and she marshals José, Henry, and their 8-year-old friend Sinan into an investigative force.  They must work together, find their way out of dangerous situations, and corral one overactive dog (Hammurabi) to have any chance of saving the day.

The story is mostly told from Anna’s point of view, and Anna, a devotee of Harriet the Spy and longing to be grown up and in the thick of things, is a force to be reckoned with.  Her determination to do the right thing is admirable, and though the reader might find her a little bossy, it’s an understandable ‘let’s save the world!’ sort of bossiness.  José is a reader and a quotation gatherer, and his clear thinking and timely advice often help the rest of the group sort out what they should do.  Henry is addicted to video games, and this (surprisingly) is one of his great assets – because he knows how the spies and thieves in his game act. 

While the characters are drawn with care and the action is non-stop, the mystery itself is fairly easy to solve.  The plot twists may work with younger readers, but preteens to adults should figure out the puzzle quickly.  That doesn’t take away from what the book does well – it is an entertaining adventure/mystery featuring protagonists from different ethnic backgrounds with a historical artifact as a subject and themes of international cooperation.  I imagine it will do very well in upper elementary classrooms as additional reading for American history curricula.

While I didn’t fall in love with the book like I did with The Mysterious Benedict Society and The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, I can see where this book fits, and I think it will find a home with lower level readers and perhaps spark a love of reading, history and mysteries in the hearts of those kids. 

Recommended for: fans of The Boxcar Children series, those who enjoy middle grade mysteries, and any child who enjoys museums, history, and a simple caper.

Fine print: I picked up this book for review at the Scholastic booth at BEA.


Liviania said...

I agree completely! My cousins do like mysteries, so I passed it on to them and think they'll enjoy it.

Risa said...

Well, Seraphina's just come out, and I've heard that's really good~ I was looking for a writing blog to follow and I LOVE this blog name. (Let it be known that Amelia Bedelia was the essence of my Pre-K years, lol.)

Ginny Larsen said...

you can delete this comment if you want. does your fine print contain an error? i thought so, but maybe not.

sounds cool, but i agree about the lower level verdict... cool premise though!

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