Oh say can you see by the dawn’s early light, THE Star Spangled Banner has been stolen, y’all. It’s up to four intrepid children to save the historical artifact in Kate Messner’s latest middle grade book Capture The Flag. Messner does a bang up job writing a book for kids that reminded me a lot of the film National Treasure in that it makes history and it’s artifacts interesting for the masses.
Three children — Anna who idolizes Harriet The Spy and is kind of brash and annoying, José who has a quote notebook and always has a backpack with Harry Potter paperbacks on him at all times (AKA my FAVORITE) and Henry who is a major video gamer– are all trapped at the Washington DC airport because of a blizzard. While there, the news breaks that the original flag that inspired the national anthem has been stolen. Three have this very strange and fascinating connection between them. A connection that relates to the protection of art throughout the ages.
I mentioned a fourth kid – Sinan. His parents are Pakistani and part of an international orchestra. Unfortunately due to racism and xenophobia, the orchestra is blamed for the stolen flag simply because they were non-Americans who were performing for a gala at the Smithsonian the night the flag disappeared. The kids bond with Sinan who has a poodle named Hammurabi and draws cartoons to better understand phrases like ‘it isn’t over until the fat lady sings.’ Anyways, they all want to find the flag and the real villain, both of which are at the airport.
Kate Messner totally deserve commendation for incorporating diversity in a natural way. Yet Capture The Flag also addressing the very real life problem of racism and xenophobia on a child’s level. I thought she handled it well without being overly saccharine or preachy, but keeping the story fun.
Capture The Flag is a fast paced, adventurous read. I think that it’s more of a book that is for those who are actually kids rather than adults reading children’s books, like it doesn’t quite have the works on multiple levels feeling that The Westing Game does. However, I do feel Capture The Flag is a great read especially if you have younger relatives or work with kids. I honestly don’t think this book would be hard sell to actual children at all.
Disclosure: Received for review at BEA.
Other reviews of Capture The Flag by Kate Messner:
The Adventures of Cecilia Bedelia – “an entertaining adventure/mystery featuring protagonists from different ethnic backgrounds”
The Reading Zone – “the perfect middle grade mystery”
My Tower Of Books – “an enjoyable book with spunk”