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The Code Busters Club, Case #1: The Secret of the Skeleton Key Hardcover – September 13, 2011
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About the Author
Penny Warner s middle-grade mystery, The Mystery of the Haunted Caves, won an Agatha Award and an Anthony Award in 2002 for Best Juvenile Mystery. Her books have received excellent reviews and have been printed in fourteen countries throughout the world.
Warner lives in Danville, California. Visit her online at www . pennywarner . com.
Top Customer Reviews
From the moment you crack the cover of The Secret of the Skeleton Key, it is clear you’re wading in different waters. You’ll feel you’ve been granted special access as you are greeted with the club rules and club dossiers that disclose the identities of all four members, as well as their code names, descriptions, special skills, and other privileged information. And once you reach the table of contents, it’s clear your active participation will not only be encouraged but required! Each chapter title, both in the table of contents and at each chapter heading, is encoded in pictorial American Sign Language finger spellings. So you’ll immediately be flipping to the indexed key at the back of the book and learning finger spelling on the fly in order to figure out what the first chapter will be all about. And trust me, it’s a challenge! But I can also say that by book’s end, you won’t need to reference the key to figure out which letter each pictogram represents. Instead, you’ll be reading the chapter headings like a pro — nearly instantly decoding them and diving into the text to uncover the next piece of the puzzle! Have a sheet of paper and a pencil handy! And you’ll want two bookmarks — one to mark your place in the story, and a second to track your progress with the keys and solutions. Yes, the answers are in the back, but you’ll have so much more fun if you work out the answers first and check the back only to verify whether you got them right!
While there are a lot of mystery/adventure books on the shelves right now, the Code Busters Club books are much more interactive than the others. From American Sign Language finger spellings to Morse Code, Caesar’s cipher, semaphore, and even braille, these are puzzles and codes kids CAN and WILL want to crack. Readers will be actively uncovering the clues with the fictional foursome, solving the puzzles with them each step of the way. And that’s half the fun! It’s more thrilling than a Choose Your Own Adventure style story, and definitely less frustrating because there won’t be any dead ends.
Without getting into spoilers, let me tell you a bit of what the book’s about. When Cody and Quinn witness a coded message on the neighbor’s door, the Code Busters Club becomes embroiled in a dangerous and potentially deadly mystery. And it will take all of their collective skills to crack the case! In so doing, they learn more about their neighbor and regret having referred to him Mr. Skelton as “the Skeleton Man”. Adults and older readers may recall Boo Radley (To Kill a Mockingbird) when the kids’ new knowledge of their mysterious neighbor reveals a man who is decidedly less strange and threatening than they had previously assumed. So there’s a lesson waiting in between these pages. But, more than anything, there is a whole lot of challenging F-U-N! And I’m convinced that every kid who reads this series will be inspired to start his or her own secret club. As well as a feeling of accomplishment, readers will walk away equipped with a new set of skills and tools that they’ll find useful, if only to exchange information in a secret or stealthy way, be it passing notes at school or driving their little brothers or sisters mad!
Verdict: 4 of 5 Hearts. The Start of a Uniquely Appealing Interactive Middle Grade Mystery Series. Opening The Secret of the Skeleton Key felt a bit like discovering a hidden, precious gem. Though, since this first book and the third installment were nominated for the Agatha Award, and the second casebook won that honor, I’m clueless as to why The Code Busters Club series isn’t more widely known.
*Disclosure of Material Connection: I would like to thank Egmont USA for providing me a copy of this title. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
The Code Busters Club by Penny Warner (YA)
This is the first in a mystery series. Four young adults form a club where they pass secret messages written in code back and forth. Their neighbor, whom they call Skeleton Man, is taken to the hospital after his house catches fire. But was it an accidental fire or set by his newly arrived family members? The kids decide to investigate.
This book was a good mystery and used the codes in an interesting way to move the plot along. I could see readers who liked solving codes really enjoying this book. There are two male and two female protagonists so I think both male and female readers would be drawn to this book. It was a good, quick read.