Author: Blue Balliett
Release date: Sept. 1, 2010
Publisher: Scholastic, 320 pages
A boy in a small town who has a different way of seeing.
A mischievous girl who doesn’t belong.
A mysterious notebook .
These are some of the things you’ll find within The Danger Box, the new mystery from bestselling author Blue Balliett. (Goodreads)
Zoomy is a secret — a child left on his grandparent’s doorstep as an infant and may never know his mother. But his grandparents have raised him with love and at 12-years-old he’s bright and caring. He’s also near-legally blind and extremely sensitive to change – either through OCD and Asperger’s. He manages his days with a compulsive need to make lists – which connects him to Darwin – and his grandmother’s colloquialisms. He treasures secrets.
“The Danger Box” is about an original, priceless Charles Darwin manuscript that gets left behind by Zoomy’s absent father and attracts the good and the bad. Zoomy is on a quest to find out, first, who’s it is and to make the right choices on how to return it — without putting his family in danger. He’s helped by new friend Lorrol, dubbed Firecracker Girl, who aspires to be an investigative journalist. She is his first friend and they are a match made in heaven. Together they dive headlong into Darwin history and even produce a mysterious newspaper. It’s a great little caper from an original and charming point of view, even when the action lags a little in the middle.
Similar to “The Calder Game” and “Chasing Vermeer,” author Blue Balliett centers her story around a historical figure, this time Darwin. It’s this examination of artists and thinkers by 12-year-olds that draws me into her books (and I’ve read them all). The questions they ask and what they find interesting and exciting is different from what we’ve learned in a dry textbook; they turn into new, more-rounded figures.
Another theme in Balliett’s writing is kid empowerment. Her young characters make big discoveries through research that enable them to solve the different mysteries and secrets in their lives. It’s great to see a smart 12-year-old boy named Zoomy make these discoveries, regardless of disabilities. Territory new to Balliett’s books.