Book: Hide and Seek
Author: Kate Messner
Age Range: 8 - 12
Hide and Seek is the second book in Kate Messner's Silver Jaguar Society series, following last year's Capture the Flag. Like their parents, José, Anna, and Henry are members of the Silver Jaquar society, an organization dedicated to protecting the world's most precious historical artifacts. The three met while snowbound in an airport, and ended up saving the flag that inspired The Star Spangled Banner (see Capture the Flag).
Now established friends, the kids find themselves setting off with their respective parents and guardians to the Costa Rican rainforest, in search of the Jaguar Cup (an artifact important to both their organization and to Latin American culture. The kids are left at a secluded rain forest eco-lodge, operated by another society member, while their parents search in the city for the missing cup. But soon, in addition to facing the dangers of the rainforest (poisonous snakes, ants, etc.), José, Anna, and Henry find themselves on the run from dangerous thieves.
The rainforest setting in Hide and Seek, particularly the eco-lodge where the kids stay, feels quite authentic. An author's note at the end of the book describes the author's family's visit to a similar location. This research (in addition to doubtless having been a fabulous family vacation), really comes through in the book. Without impeding the book's action, the rain forest winds its way into practically every page. Like this:
"Michael opened the van door, and they stepped out into the lobby of the eco-lodge. It had a red-tiled floor and pillars every so often to hold up the roof. But where the walls should have been were...well...walls of green. The rain forest grew right up to the lodge, and leafy limbs poked into the lobby as if the trees wanted rooms for the night." (Page 27)
The interpersonal dynamics of the kids are realistically detailed, too, with squabbling and misunderstandings. José is the primary protagonist in this installation, and I think that kids will be able to relate to his insecurities (and will respect how he takes action in spite of them).
The mystery itself is fast-paced and kid-friendly. As an adult reader, I had a tiny bit of trouble letting go of some of the conveniences of the setup (the one parent-figure is helpfully away from the lodge during the climax of the book, for example). But I think that some amount of this sort of thing is inevitable in books that let kids take the reins of mystery-solving.
Hide and Seek is a middle grade mystery novel that features kids taking charge. It has a unique backdrop, realistic interpersonal dynamics between 12-year-olds, and some very cool chase scenes. Fans of Capture the Flag will doubtless enjoy Hide and Seek, and librarians will be pleased to find this a growing mystery series, good for boys and girls, suitable for ages 8 and up. Recommended.
Publisher: Scholastic Press (@Scholastic)
Publication Date: April 1, 2013 (but available now)
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
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