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BOOK REVIEWS, Fantasy, Middle Grade Readers, Young Adult Readers

THE MISSING series by Margaret Peterson Haddix

There are currently three books in The Missing series:  (1) Found; (2) Sent; and (3) Sabotaged.  I was first introduced to this particular series (and this author) when Found showed up on the Division II (Grades 5-7) nominees for the 2010-11 Maud Hart Lovelace Award.

I try to read all the Lovelace nominees in both divisions so I can speak knowledgeably about them and help students when they are selecting one for their own reading pleasure.  For me, Found was a lightning-fast read.  I was hooked from the first pages.  It reads like a thriller novel in its pace and intensity.  It actually falls under the science fiction/fantasy genre.

The story line deals with thirteen-year-old Jonah who receives frightening warnings in the mail.  As he tries to discover the origin of these messages he finds other kids who have received the same messages. In a breathtaking narrative, Jonah uncovers a kidnapping conspiracy that began far in the past and stretches far into the future, with himself and the other children at its center.

At the conclusion of Found the children have discovered they are famous “lost children” from history.  JB, a time traveler from the future is determined to restore history to its original path by returning all the “lost children” to their original histories. Gary and Hodge, the original kidnappers from the future persist in their efforts to restore their original moneymaking scheme. Jonah and many of the others are appalled to think they will be forced to leave the only homes and families they have known to appease either JB OR Gary and Hodge.

A bargain is struck between JB and Jonah that Jonah will travel back in time with each lost child, help repair any damage done to history, and return to the 21st century with the “real” child where he/she can continue living the life they have known for 13 years.

The ensuing books in the series are instances of Jonah (and his sister Katherine–who is NOT a lost child) traveling into history to accomplish the mission they agreed upon with JB at the end of FoundSent takes them to the 15th century and the tale of two young princes.  Sabotaged involves the Roanoke Colony in the late 16th century in the United States (before it was the United States) and Virginia Dare, the first English colonist born in America.

While Sent is engaging, Sabotaged adds an additional wrinkle–another player in the time travel game.  A mysterious individual calling himself “Second” is attempting to thwart JB’s vision of restoring history.  Stranded in the 16th century–unsure exactly when–Jonah and Katherine must determine which actions will restore history and which will irrevocably change it.  And the answers to these dilemmas are not what either of them expect.

I recommend this series primarily for older readers (5th grade and up) because it does deal with time travel and time paradox (i.e.) what if you do something in the past that causes your personal history or global history to be altered significantly?  Personally, I struggle to wrap my mind around the whole time travel, other dimensions theories.  I find it fascinating, but I am sometimes confused.  I think Haddix does a great job of explaining the time theories in accessible language and content, but I think the reader needs to begin with a certain ability for abstract thinking that often develops a little later in reading comprehension for children.  As always, each reader is an individual; there are many 9 year olds who can out-think adults (myself included) in theoretical science.


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