Author: Patricia Reilly Giff
Publisher: Random House, 2008
Star - Nominated for BBYA 2009
It's Sam's eleventh birthday and for some reason he's afraid of eleven. Sam lives with his grandfather above their woodworking shop in a large building which also houses a deli and restaurant both owned by friends of his grandfather. Together the residents of the building have formed a small family. At the start of the story Sam finds an odd locked chest in the attic when he goes searching for his birthday presents. Sticking out of the chest is an old newspaper article with the word missing and a picture of Sam, but the problem is that Sam has trouble reading and can't figure out the rest of the article. A new girl at school and a great teacher, who understands that different kids have different talents, enable Sam to get help. The new girl - Caroline- becomes Sam's best friend and together they work on a school project and solve the mystery of Sam's article.
This book was nominated for best books for teens, but I think it firmly belongs in the younger section. The main characters are just turning eleven and though the mystery starts as interesting, it pretty quickly dissolves into something that could have been solved if either of the kids had thought to say, "Hey, lets ask any one of the adults involved what happened."
I liked the fact that the teachers in the story were good teachers and that Sam's reading problems were written about without tossing out a name or label (dyslexia - usually) and then dismissed as easily overcome, but that's probably the most interesting and worthy thing in the book. It was a good story and a pleasant mystery for kids who don't like anything too scary, but for your die hard mystery fans? They will be disappointed with such an easy non-mystery ending I think.