Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

The Danger Box

The Danger Box

Fall 2010 Fiction
Ages: 9 - 12 yrs.
Author: Blue Balliett
ISBN: 9780439852098
Hardcover Price: $16.99

Blue Balliett, the popular author of Chasing Vermeer and The Calder Game is practiced in historical mystery. In Chasing Vermeer, she sneaks an art history primer into a very compelling story. In her new book, The Danger Box, her history lesson is on Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution. She presents both the man and his theory from a fresh perspective, capturing the political and religious tension surrounding it.

Her protagonist is 12-year-old Zoomy, a boy with extreme near-sightedness who was left on his grandparents' doorstep as a baby, with a note. Zoomy couldn't ask for a better setup, as he enjoys his grandmother's nurturing warmth and afternoons with Grandpa at the family antique store - a place teeming with intrigue and treasure. The plot twist comes when Zoomy's ne'er-do-well absentee father shows up with a mysterious box he needs stashed, and inside it an even more mysterious notebook.

Zoomy finds a wonderful sidekick in the spunky Lorrell, who has her own unconventional background. Together they unravel the mystery of the notebook and discover, in the stacks of the town library, a lesser-known story of the young Charles Darwin.

The multiple story lines might present a challenge for some readers, as it's not apparent if or how they tie together until well into the book. Still, Balliett is handy with suspense, and Danger Box is full of shadows and dark corners. Zoomy is a natural curator and consummate list-maker, and this device plays well into the gems that are eventually revealed.

Balliett dedicated the book to the children of Three Oaks, the real-life small Michigan town that is her setting, and her depiction of the town and its quaint way of life, is an added treat.

Parents' Choice   ©2010 Parents' Choice

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Scholastic Inc./ Hardcovers 1

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