Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Danger Box

The Danger Box by Blue Balliett (NY: Scholastic, 2010)

Zoomy Chamberlain has some special needs--for one, he's legally blind--but he's a smart kid who has learned to manage his needs. He keeps lists so he feels in control of his activities, and he maintains routines. He loves his Gams and Gamps Chamberlain and can't imagine life without them, their vegetable garden, the antique shop, and the familiarity of Three Oaks, Michigan. He doesn't know his father Buckeye Chamberlain because someone left him on his grandparents' doorstep when he was just a baby. They've pieced together that Zoomy was born after Buckeye took off. But Zoomy is OK with it because Buckeye sounds too wild, and Zoomy has no interest in wild! He's somewhat apprehensive about the new girl who is hanging out at the library while he's there. She runs around loudly in flip flops, earning her the nickname of Firecracker Girl, though she quickly introduces herself as Lorrol.

Then Buckeye shows up in a stolen truck with a mysterious package. A prologue indicates that the package holds a valuable item that has been procured through labyrinthine methods and was meant to be restored to its rightful owners, if only the collector who was attempting to procure it had lived long enough to take delivery. Buckeye happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and the box really is a danger box for Zoomy and his family. What could be so important about an old notebook? Zoomy and his new friend attempt to investigate even though doing so ratchets Zoomy out of his comfort zone.

Balliett has written another fine mystery that will keep upper elementary readers interested but not overwhelmed. Zoomy is a marvelous character supported by a cast of well drawn individuals in a small town. Highly recommended for ages 8 & up.

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