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7 Riddles to Nowhere Paperback – August 9, 2016
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"With a fast-paced story and compelling characters, A.J. Cattapan's Seven Riddles to Nowhere inspires young readers not only to spend time reading, but also to believe in their own ability to make a difference in this world. Highly recommended for middle schoolers, and the grown ups who love them!"
-Lisa M. Hendey, author of the Chime Travelers series
"A.J. Cattapan has a knack for getting into the hearts and minds of middle-schoolers. Kids will be hooked from the first page (and parents tempted to read over their shoulders) as they follow an intrepid troop of friends on a quest to save their school. Seven Riddles to Nowhere has it all--action, cryptic clues, unique settings, and a hero every kid can root for."
-Stephanie Landsem, author of The Living Waters series
"Seven Riddles to Nowhere is a blast, taking the reader on an exciting tour of Chicago streets and churches, while characters gain insight into mysteries and symbols of our faith as they struggle to solve riddles. The tension and suspense mount right up to the very end."
-Theresa Linden, author of Roland West, Loner
"A fun and informative mystery for Catholic middle-schoolers or anyone who has eyed a Catholic church or cathedral and wondered about the meaning in its structural details and symbols."
-Cynthia T. Toney, author of the Bird Face series
"Seven Riddles to Nowhere will keep teens turning pages, even while they gain an appreciation for Church history, its rich symbolism, and the universality of the faith. Parents, beware! Your kids will want to stay up late finishing this book - and you might, too!"
-Stephanie Engelman, author of A Single Bead
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When I started reading this book I thought about The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin, and a few paragraphs one of the characters compares the events happening to that same book. And as much as I loved that book in the end, it took a while to grow on me, where this book had me hooked from the get go. In fact I found it very hard to put this book down, I kept saying 'just one more chapter' until the book was finished in two sittings.
As can be guessed by the title, and the comparison to The Westing Game this book focuses around seven riddles. There are a group of heirs trying to obtain a fortune. Now most of the heirs know the family story and stories about their quirky uncle Edward. But Kameron Boyd, Kam is not related, he is the mystery cousin. And the other cousins are searching for the treasure for the money; Kam wants to find the treasure so that he can save his school. Kam has been to five schools in seven years. He also cannot speak when adults are around outside of his home. St. Jude's has had declining enrolment for years, and though it does well on the state wide tests, and has great equipment the diocese plans to close it down unless the school can come up with a plan. And thus enters the 7 Riddles contest. Because of his issue talking this is the first time Kam has felt at home in a school and has real friends. And he wants to win the contest to keep that together.
This story is part adventure, part scavenger hunt, part church history, part travel, and a whole lot of mystery. Kam and his friends visit 5 Catholic churches in and around Chicago while following the riddles. The artwork and layout of the churches are true to real life. Because of his issue talking this is the first time Kam has felt at home in a school and has real friends.
The whole story takes place over a few days. The main part of the clue hunt is during a single day. Kam and his friends are wonderful characters. And the church history that is woven into the story is a lot of fun. Both of the 5 churches visited and the theology behind some of the clues and riddles.
I absolutely loved this story and look forward to reading it again with my children. The oldest now and the others as they grow older. And I sincerely hope that we see more from A.J. Cattapan soon, I for one will be keeping an eye out for more reads and if they are as good as this we are in for some more great reading!
A.J. Cattapan keeps the story moving quickly as Kam and company try to be the first to solve the riddles that will give Kam enough cash to save their little Catholic school, which is slated for closure. In the process, they'll have to outwit competitors, including some bullies, navigate Chicago streets and public transportation, and use their knowledge of the Catholic faith to devise the correct answers.
The characters are unique and well-drawn, including the selectively mute Kam. Having been a bit awed by people who had electronic voice boxes when I was a kid, Kam's horror/fascination with Old Man Englebert was among my favorite parts of the story.
Throughout their adventure, Kam and his friends share both tenets of their faith and church history along with description of church architecture that made me long for a church tour of Chicago, which I learned actually exists!
Highly-recommended for middle-grade readers and younger children who are strong readers.
(The author is a fellow member of the Catholic Writers Guild, and I received an advance copy for my honest review.)
You see, early on in the book, it becomes clear their beloved Catholic school is going to have to close if they can’t quickly become financially solvent. To Kam, the school was family, as his beloved grandmother went there as a young girl. Just as it was looking bleak, Kam and several other children, including T.J. Reynolds IV (the bully) were sent on a mysterious and adventurous, riddle-based scavenger hunt through the city of Chicago’s Catholic Churches.
They had to answer seven riddles and text them to a person they didn’t know (wait till you find out who it was). The winner of the scavenger hunt would win enough money to save the school. What a beautiful picture Ms. Cattapan painted as she took us from Church to Church, weaving the Catholic faith we love into every endeavor. The hero and his fantastic group of unconventional friends, overcomes adversity and the villain gets a shock, in the end.
I really want to describe to you every character, every scene, every twist (this is why it was so hard to review, I kept giving too much info in my excitement).... I would if I didn’t think that You simply MUST read this for yourself. This book never slowed down… it was as if I was on a rollercoaster and I didn’t know where the loops or plunges were – and I loved it.
In the end - COMMUNITY ruled the day. The old school everyone loved, and the community that came together to save it - all for various reasons. Sigh. I cried. But I'm a crier. <3
Who would I recommend this book to? Anyone, from about 4th grade on up who like reading books that are full of examples of virtue and community. Sure it’s a Catholic book in many ways; however, Ms. Cattapan does a great job of intertwining our faith in a way that would not be off-putting to anyone who wasn’t Catholic. I hope that makes sense.
I reviewed this book, courtesy A.J. through NetGalley. And when I receive a hard-copy, my son and I will be reading it together.
I pray you found this review helpful. If so, let me know.