Friday, June 28, 2013

     In 1935, Key West, Florida is not exactly the vacation paradise it is today.  It’s the middle of the Great Depression, many people are out of work, and no one has any money.  It’s hot, humid and you have to be sure to shake your shoes out before putting them on, deadly scorpions are everywhere.  Even with all this adversity there's a special sense of community.  Everyone looks out for one another and communication travels quickly throughout the Key’s special “conch telegraph” system.  Life is simpler and seems to go at a slower pace in the Keys.

       Eleven-year-old Turtle has never been to Florida but has heard her mother, Sadiebelle, share wondrous stories of growing up in the Keys.  Then her mother lands a job as a housekeeper and children are not allowed.  There is no choice but to send Turtle to live with Aunt Minerva down in Key West.  As if moving from New Jersey to Florida wasn’t culture shock enough, Turtle discovers she’ll be living with three boy cousins, Beans, Kermit, and Buddy, as well.

       Turtle is nothing if not adaptable.  Soon she has assimilated to life in the Keys, joins the boys on their daily rounds with the Diaper Gang, and becomes aquatinted with the locals, including a very curious writer nicknamed “Papa”.  (Turtle feels compelled to offer him advice.  If he ever wants to become famous he needs to listen to her.)  She even manages to find a part-time job fishing for sponges with a local fisherman, Slow Poke.  She also becomes friends with the meanest woman in the Keys, Nana Philly, and then discovers a startling connection.  Still, Turtle misses her mother and wishes for a way for them to be together again.  But how can that happen?

       This book has been on my TBR (to be read) pile since last summer when I read many favorable reviews and postings on blogs and Twitter.  As I was packing for vacation the silver Newbery Honor medal on it’s cover caught my eye, so I threw it in my tote thinking it might be a good summer read.  I can honestly say I did not want this story to end!  I want to go back to Key West and read about the next chapters in Turtle’s life with her extended family.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Capture the Flag by Kate Messner

Have you ever been stranded at an airport (or really anywhere for that matter) in the middle of a major snowstorm?  You can’t leave, you can’t go anywhere.  The roads are completely impassable; the world has become a swirling mass of white.  If you’re stuck someplace that’s not home all you can do is sit and stare, while you wait for the storm to pass.  This is the fate that has befallen Anna, Henry and Josè.  They are snowed in at the Washington DC airport.  But it’s during this weather-imposed delay that the kids start to realize they have more in common then just their ages.  First, all three are returning to Vermont after a trip to Washington DC.  Second, they were all at a special event at the Smithsonian the previous night.  And finally, all three have relatives that are members of a secret society.

It’s during this unplanned stay at the airport that the kids first hear about the heist that took place at the Smithsonian museum the previous night, the night they were there!  Someone has made off with a very famous flag, Old Glory, the flag that inspired the “Star-Spangled Banner” has been stolen.  The kids quickly come up with a theory:  the flag must be at the airport.  Whoever stole it would want to get it out of Washington DC as fast as possible; so flying would be the obvious choice.  Unfortunately for them they didn’t plan on the storm.  The news is filled with stories of the missing flag and possible suspects, including Josè’s mother, the woman responsible for restoring the flag, but also the last person to have seen the flag before it disappeared.  The police have her in custody, while even more suspects are questioned and detained, including parents of another new friend.  The kids take it upon themselves to solve the mystery and find the flag, never realizing the danger they were heading into.

If you like the “National Treasure” movies, you’ll love this book.  Each chapter keeps you guessing as to who the culprit is and what the possible motive could be.