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Island of the Unknowns: A Mystery Paperback – August 1, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 6–8—This clever and unusual mystery is tailor made for young mathematicians. Lady Di and Tom Jones live in Folsom Adjacent, a godforsaken trailer park named after the giant power plant that shares the small coastal island. When people start vanishing from this nuclear nowhere, the two 11-year-olds investigate, using mathematical cues left behind by their missing math tutor. Equations, right triangles, pi, coordinates, and slope help the kids and some of their similarly outcast friends negotiate a massive maze of underground tunnels to access the plant and discover a nefarious scheme that will destroy the island. Carey is particularly adept at creating setting: the landscape is raw, desolate, and nearly apocalyptic. Math moves the plot along, at times at the expense of character development. Replete with diagrams, charts, and illustrated problems, the book will appeal especially to kids who love geometry, but it will also reel in fans of less numbers-centric books such as Eric Berlin's The Puzzling World of Winston Breen (Putnam, 2007) or Ellen Raskin's The Westing Game (Puffin, 1992).—Connie Tyrrell Burns, Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, ME END --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Math is the key to solving the mystery in this fast-paced adventure about a group of seventh-grade misfits who discover secrets surrounding the energy plant next to their trailer park. After their teacher disappears, the kids stumble across mysterious clues that she left behind. Di, Tom, and three more classmates band together, and their sleuthing takes them through claustrophobic man-made tunnels, secret underground workstations, and horrifying mountains of trash before they finally expose a team of powerful and corrupt grown-ups. Computers are part of the detective work: essential clues are on the teacher’s flash drive, and the details about how the kids crack the code and get the password will hook young readers. Science and math buffs will love the equations and charts, but even those bored by the technical details will be swept up in the fast talk and exciting action. Grades 6-10. --Hazel Rochman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Amulet Paperbacks; Reprint edition (August 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0810996634
  • ISBN-13: 978-0810996632
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #368,458 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Erika Erhart on April 13, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I have to be honest, math is my Achilles Heel. I have never enjoyed it and aside from a random B in geometry, I was a consistent average-to-below average "math" student, which is why I approached this book with trepidation. I didn't think the mystery would engage me. 20 pages into The Unknowns, I was captivated. The lovable main characters and their witty voices combined with the vivid descriptions of life in Adjacent made this a very smooth and enjoyable read. I appreciate a well written story with round characters that are appealing to a broad audience, which is what Benedict Carey accomplishes with The Unknowns. I encouraged my ten-year old to read the book when I finished and wondered if some of the math elements would confuse him (I'm just assuming he's inherited the gene of "fear of math.") and he is understanding and enjoying the book. There are elements of this book that remind me of other great juvenile fiction books like Bridge to Terabithia, Chasing Vermeer or Hatchet.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Traci Rieckmann on April 29, 2009
Format: Hardcover
The Unknowns is a story about two kids, Tom Jones and Lady Di, who live in a Trailer Park called Adjacent. The mystery begins with local residents disappearing and continues on with action, secrets, and intriguing clues. Following the main characters through school, turmoil with peers, and spy-kid challenges, the reader is drawn easily into the adventuring lives of Tom and Di. But this is where Carey brings it home - weaving math equations, maps, math history, and geometry into the story, the reader is challenged through this fresh, fun mystery. I was impressed by his ability to depict such accessible characters who are simultaneously brave and awkward, and who experience the normal blunders of early adolescence. The Unknowns is an unexpected find that also offers a great opportunity for dialogue between parents and children. Carey's ability to move the plot forward with empowered yet human characters that rely on creative problem-solving is sure to be a draw for a broad audience. The Unknowns leaves any reader smiling and thinking -"Finally, something new, sharp, and moving!" I would recommend it to other parents, kids, teachers, and even grandparents and the illustrations are wonderful!!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on May 19, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Imagine yourself on an island where a bunch of nobodies live. Everyone is yearning for something, anything, to happen. Suddenly, it happens. People start to disappear. Then one day, your friend disappears. Not that your age friend, but the kind, old lady Ms. Clarke who helped you with your homework and always had something to give. She is gone. This is what happens in this book, The Unknowns. Di and her friend Tom will embark on a a mathematical journey to rescue their friend Ms. Clarke. How will they find her on such a big, unknown island? Ms. Clarke already thought of that. She left clues, clues that only her pupils could figure out. Clues that no one will understand, except Di and Tom. Di is an awkward overweight girl who is very determined. Tom is a quiet boy, but he is able to disappear. The two of them will do anything to get Ms. Clarke back, whether it's walking across town to find an exact location or crawling, underground to a nuclear plant. This book is full of twists and turns.
I liked this book because it helped me to look at math in a whole new way, but it was also confusing because I hadn't learned some of the things they talked about. I suggest it this book for sixth or seventh grade readers who like long mystery books. This book was hard to get into at first, but after you read the first few chapters, it gets better. I liked how the author included stories from Adjacent's past. There was one about how Ham crawled under Mount Trashmore on dare. If you are wondering who Ham is, you will have to read the book. Overall I would say this book is a captivating book that will make you want to read more!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on October 30, 2012
Format: Paperback
I loved all of the riddles and math problems. This book has a great ending that will keep you guessing.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I gave this book a 5-star rating because I really, really liked it. I would recommend this book to anyone. Even if you don't like math (the book has some in it), I still think you'd like it. It had some really exciting parts, where I couldn't put put the book down! I'm not exaggerating either. I think you'd like it more than other books because it has lots of drawing that make it easier to understand.
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Format: Kindle Edition
My first response as I read [Island of the Unknowns] by [Benedict Carey] was "Oh God there is math in it!" Needless to say I overcame my phobia and pushed on to find out it was a great mystery book. Yes, it did have math but they were the clues and I think this book shows a fun and practical use for math.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
First, I am confused, is this a new edition of The Unknowns, A mathematical mystery? Do the books differ at all?

I am planning to read one of these editions to my pre-algebra class this year. A great introduction into algebra and geometry concepts wrapped in a riveting adventure.
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