Monday, October 1, 2012

Capture the Flag...A Patriotic Mystery for Tweens

A few weeks ago, I was asked by representative of Scholastic to read and review Capture the Flag by Kate Messner.  I,  being the book bug that I am, of course accepted and was very excited when a copy of the book arrived.

My patriotic side loved the cover of the book.  And the title of Capture the Flag I found to be a cute play on words as a take off on the children's game capture the flag, which very much described the action that takes place in the book.  Yes, a flag is stolen and must be recovered.  But it's not just any flag that has gone missing and it's not just anywhere that the flag has been stolen from; it's THE flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write "The Star-Spangled Banner" and it was stolen from the Smithsonian on the very same night it went on display for only a few select guests at the museum.  Unfortunately, the flag was not discovered missing until the next day, after all the guests had left and were preparing to fly home the next morning.  Thus, the story mostly takes place in a Washington, D.C. airport, where everyone who had attended the special event at the Smithsonian the night before await to depart, only to be stranded by a snow storm.

I enjoyed the diverse ethnic and political set of characters in the book.  The three main characters, Anna,  a budding young journalist, Jose, a fantasy bookworm, and Henry, a video game-loving kid are young middle schoolers who find themselves suddenly on the hunt for the "Star-Spangled Banner" thief while waiting for their plane to board.  These three, although highly intelligent, are also very real and relatible to many readers.  And although the trio all attended the museum festivities the night before, it isn't until they are all snowed in at the airport that they introduce themselves to each other and find that they all share a secret bond.  It is this bond that unites them in the search to recover the flag. One of the other main characters who adds to the mystery of the plot is Senator Robert Snickerbottom, a good ol' boy politician who is keen on catching the flag thief.  He's a character that you love to hate...always good to have one of those in a book.

Capture the Flag is not only a mystery, but also an adventure with a bit of history thrown in.  The hunt for the thief in different areas of the airport is a kind of behind the scenes look that not many airline passengers get nowadays, and makes the action all the more intriguing.  It has just the right mix of good guys and bad guys to make the reader want to read another chapter.  I can foresee many of my fourth and fifth grade patrons, girls and boys alike, checking out this book in the future.

Capture the Flag by Kate Messner is available through Scholastic.  Click here to download the Scholastic classroom discussion guide for this book.

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