Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Secret Keepers--Shelf Awareness

Mid Grade Review: The Secret Keepers

The Secret Keepers by Trenton Lee Stewart, illus. by Diana Sudyka (Megan Tingley/Little, Brown, $18.99 hardcover, 512p., ages 9-12, 9780316389556)

Eleven-year-old Reuben Pedley considers himself a "sneaker." While his caring but harried mom works two jobs and still barely manages to support them, Reuben enjoys solitary summer days sneaking around the Lower Downs, the worst neighborhood of New Umbra, a place "as gloomy and run-down as a city could be." One day, Reuben squeezes into the narrowest alley he's ever seen, and climbs to a dangerously high ledge. While holding on for dear life, he finds a beautiful, spherical antique pocket watch lodged in the brick wall. It looks valuable, and Reuben hopes to sell it for enough money to "turn things around for him and his mom."

But Reuben quickly learns the watch has an incredible secret power. He knows he must keep it out of the hands of The Smoke, a "monstrous individual" who unofficially rules the city. Unfortunately, the bands of men who patrol New Umbra, taking payouts and reporting back to The Smoke's representative, are already looking for him. The Smoke wants Reuben's watch, and will do anything to get it. The boy sleuths his way to nearby Point William's historic lighthouse, where he discovers the story behind the centuries-old watch, as well as two unexpected allies in spirited 10-year-old Penny Meyer and her brother, Jack.

Trenton Lee Stewart (the Mysterious Benedict Society series) expertly ratchets up the tension in this wonderful nail-biter of a story, adding danger upon danger as Reuben attempts to outwit The Smoke, put him out of business, and make New Umbra a decent place in which to live again. --Lynn Becker, blogger and host of Book Talk, a monthly online discussion of children's books for SCBWI.

Discover: In this novel, 11-year-old Reuben Pedley finds an antique pocket watch with a powerful secret.

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