From School Library Journal
Grade 4-6–Red Prairie Learning Center has only 10 students and is facing possible closing unless more families move to the small Nebraska town. Ted, the only sixth grader, loves mysteries, so when he sees a girl's face at the window of a supposedly abandoned farmhouse, he decides to investigate. He meets April, who tells him that ever since her dad died in Iraq, someone has been stalking their family. She and her mother and younger brother were heading for a relative's place out west when their car broke down. Now they are stranded and are worried about who might be following them. Ted pledges not to turn the family in and agrees to bring them food and supplies. In all the mystery stories that he has read, young detectives don't need interfering grown-ups. However, this is real life, and he begins to wonder if he can handle the situation on his own. But whom can he trust–and what about his promise to keep the fugitives' secret? The story explores the potential conflict between promises and duty. There is a good balance of seriousness and humor with brisk, realistic dialogue and observations. Small black-and-white illustrations emphasize key points in the plot. Clements's usual excellent sense of character is evident. Both adults and young people are multidimensional, with true-to-life emotions and concerns. There is also a strong message about responsibility and individual courage. The conclusion is unexpected but satisfying, as both the lost family and the struggling town find hope for the future.–Elaine E. Knight, Lincoln Elementary Schools, IL
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Gr. 3-5. In a one-room school in a small Nebraska town, Ted is the lone sixth-grader sandwiched between four fourth-graders and four eighth-graders. Besides doing his chores on the family farm, he delivers newspapers, attends 4-H Club meetings, and enjoys reading mystery books. Riding his paper route one morning, Ted spies a girl's face in the window of an abandoned farmhouse. He puts his detective skills to the test as he tries to discover who she is, why she is there, and how he can help her. Though the mystery element in the plot is relatively mild, the story is strong enough that readers will want to find out what will become of Ted's vulnerable new friend. When she entrusts him with a secret, he must decide how best to honor that trust while helping solve her family's dilemma. The convincing, contemporary rural setting is an inextricable element of the novel, which is illustrated with small black-and-white sketches that enhance the refreshingly innocent tone of the story. Carolyn PhelanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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