Capture the Flag by Kate Messner
It all started one night at an event at the Smithsonian. Three kids at the party that evening who don’t know one another will forever be linked – only they aren’t aware yet. During the party, the historical Star Spangled Banner is stolen, an almost incomprehensible feat. A fluke blizzard strands all outbound passengers at the Washington airport the next day and that is when the news story hits – the famous and priceless flag is missing. Budding investigative journalist, Anna, wants to be the one to break the story. As the moments unfold, Anna discovers that the two other kids from the party – Jose and Henry – are also stranded at the airport. And even more surprising is that they all three share a family secret – links to the underground Silver Jaguar Society, a group of people who have sworn to protect and maintain many of the world’s art and historical treasures. Do Anna, Jose, and Henry have what it takes to solve the mystery and recover the missing flag?
This mystery is action-filled. It is fast paced and a page-turner. Filled with secret societies, crooked politicians, suspicious characters, wrongly accused folks, and a group of smart and brave kids, don’t be surprised if your independent reader is caught staying up late reading with a flashlight under the covers. Every chapter leaves the reader hanging and just begs to be turned to the next. And each of the kids has a strong, unique personality – almost any reader will see some of himself in one of main characters.
Capture the Flag also fills that critical niche of being a family read aloud. Family read alouds are tough stories to write because you need a story that works successfully at several different levels with characters and plots lines that are complex, but not too complex. If you’ve got a wide age-range in your family, this story will work. It’s not too intense or complicated that a young listener can’t follow. And at the same time, it’s filled with many twists and turns to keep middle schoolers engaged.
And looking at this book through an educator’s eye, there are multiple layers here to sink into. Kate Messner is a teacher and she has effortlessly infused this book with numerous themes and topics to discuss and research. This story can extend to government, election process, dirty politics, orchestras, American history, idioms, meteorology, airport infrastructure – this book is packed.
Capture the Flag will also slide right into the Common Core Standards for Language Arts. The book lends itself to discussions about character perspectives and point of view. Or pair it up with a nonfiction, informational text on any number of topics – the history of the Star Spangled Banner, the election process, government structure to name a few.
Two thumbs up for Capture the Flag.
For further information about all of Kate Messner's books, check out Kate Messner’s webpage. And also take a look at the resource page from Scholastic including the link to the teaching and discussion guide.
Reviewed from an advanced reader copy provided by the publisher, Scholastic.