Breakout by Kate Messner: Book Review

August 14th, 2018 by

breakoutA few years ago, a couple inmates broke out of a prison in upstate New York. Since I live many miles and hours away in New York City, I was intrigued by the story but it never affected my daily existence. I was never afraid of being attacked by those inmates, I didn’t hear every detail about the investigation into how it happened or the urgent search, and it didn’t change how I viewed law enforcement or convicted criminals — and I never thought about what life must be like for the people living in the area where they escaped. In Breakout by Kate Messner, I got a window into what those folks might have experienced.

Although it’s fiction, the story in Breakout has obvious parallels to the real story: Two inmates somehow escape from a facility in upstate New York, and they manage to hide from authorities even as a serious manhunt ensues.

But in Breakout, residents of the prison town are at the heart of the story — which is told through a series of letters, newspaper articles, and transcripts of in-person conversations and text messages. These records are collected by middle-schooler Nora to show what happened during the period of the big breakout, and they provide an up-close view of its impact on the community:

For Nora, it’s an exciting opportunity to hone her skills as an aspiring journalist — but also a challenging time for her family, as her father is the superintendent of the prison and faces a lot of pressure. For her best friend, Lizzie, it’s a chance to write some truly hilarious satirical articles for Nora’s records — until her own family unexpectedly gets caught up in the story. And for new girl in town, Elidee, it’s a a frustrating blocker to visiting her brother, who is in the same prison. It’s also a time when all three characters learn a lot about themselves, and when Nora and Lizzie start to see some hard truths about their neighbors and the world at large.

I recommend this book for fans of stories that are about everyday school/family life and simultaneously about societal issues (like Ghost by Jason Reynolds) — and also for fans of Jacqueline Woodson’s books, because in Breakout, Elidee reads Brown Girl Dreaming and writes her own poetry inspired by it!

If you were going to write a book inspired by a real-life news story, which event would you choose? Leave a comment with your answer!

— Karen

Karen also enjoyed the references to Hamilton in this book and was inspired to listen to the Broadway cast recording for roughly the millionth time!

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The Seventh Wish by Kate Messner

March 7th, 2017 by

Submitted by Madison, Age 11 from New York

Rating: ★★★★½

This is a great book for kids. It talk about problems that parents sometimes have a hard time talking about. This book also shows real problems and what we might face or have to deal with as we get older. We all face hard times in our lives and the book shows a girls story and how she copes and deals with it.

The Seventh Wish by Kate Messner

January 12th, 2017 by

Submitted by Dakota, Age 11 from New York

Rating: ★★★★★

This is about a girl named Charlie. She goes ice fishing and finds a fish that can grant any wish. There is another girl named Abby she does something she said she would never do. Read this book to find out what she does. This is a really good book. I reacamend that you should read this book. If you like sad books you should read this. This book is amazing

The Seventh Wish by Kate Messner

January 10th, 2017 by

Submitted by Brooke, Age 11 from New York

Rating: ★★★★★

This book is about a girl named Charlie who finds a fish that can grant her anything but there are some problems at first even though she wants to fix them she is afraid she will make it worse.This book is awesome anyone can read it.

All the Answers by Kate Messner

November 3rd, 2015 by

all-the-answersSubmitted by Poppy, Age 10 from Connecticut

Rating: ★★★★★

I recommend this book to anybody who relishes action-packed books. You should really read it. I believe that you will enjoy it. I like the way the author surprised me. For example, I predicted that one thing would happen in the book but instead the author surprised me with something that was completely the opposite of what I thought. If you decide to read this book, be prepared for some big bombshells! All I can tell you is that there is no break from the action. This book is so fascinating that you will think about it in your sleep!

Capture the Flag: Book Review

August 30th, 2015 by

capture-the-flagAs you may know, I volunteer at a used bookstore every Saturday. In my time there, I’ve seen several books in Kate Messner’s Silver Jaguar Society Mysteries series come and go, and I’ve always thought to myself, “I want to read that!” Well, I finally did myself a favor and picked up the first book, Capture the Flag. And thank goodness — because it’s a fun, action-packed read!

In the book, we meet Anna, Henry, and Jose. They’re all snowed in at the airport together, but their connection is actually much deeper: All of their families belong to the Silver Jaguar Society, which has vowed to protect invaluable cultural relics and treasures at all costs — even if it means putting their own lives at risk, like by hunting down dangerous art thieves, for example.

But Jose, Henry, and Anna are just kids, so they can’t get involved, right? Well, that’s what their parents would like, but then the original flag that inspired The Star Spangled Banner is stolen and the trio come to believe it’s hidden at the very airport where they’re stuck. I mean, how can they not get involved at that point?

I enjoyed following Henry, Anna, and Jose’s adventures trying to recover the flag. The stakes are high because not only is the flag irreplaceable, but Jose’s mom is being held by police as a suspect in the theft. Plus, as they get deeper and deeper into the mystery, some threatening figures start to emerge and the trio find themselves in physical danger. I definitely stayed up reading this book a few times because I couldn’t wait to see what would happen next! But at the same time, I was never overly worried or spooked out by the story. To me, that’s the perfect amount of suspense.

After you read Capture the Flag, you can check out Hide and Seek and Manhunt, the other books in the series. To my surprise, I liked Hide and Seek (Book #2) even more than the first book!

I’d recommend this series to fans of Stuart Gibbs’ books (like Spy Camp, Poached, and Space Case.)

Have you read any of the Silver Jaguar Society books yourself? Leave a comment with your opinion or submit a review! Or just tell me: If you were going to get involved in saving a priceless historical artifact, which one would you choose?

— Karen

Karen would be interested in a hunt for the Constitution. In terms of periods of American history, Karen finds the Constitutional Congress pretty fascinating. What a bunch of drama from some old men!

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All the Answers: Book Review

April 5th, 2015 by

all-the-answersIf you found a magical pencil that could answer all your questions, what would you ask? Sorry, I should warn you that it can’t tell the future, so you can’t use it to win the lottery or make sure you bring your own lunch on the days your cafeteria decides to serve meatloaf…

In All the Answers by Kate Messner, Ava finds the pencil and realizes its power when she’s taking a math test. After that, she tries not to rely on the pencil during exams, but she does use it to find out what her favorite pop star is doing. Her best friend, Sophie, asks the pencil who has a crush on her. The pencil also reveals a classmate’s embarrassing middle name.

Then, the questions get bigger. Ava and Sophie realize they can use the pencil to help the residents who live with Ava’s grandfather at the nearby senior home. All they need to do is ask the pencil what the residents want and then bring them the perfect gifts. Looks like the pencil can create a better world!

But Ava is a worrier. She’s always expecting the absolute worst case scenario to happen, and she tries to avoid any situation with even minor risk. Her mind is always full of concerns like: Do the other kids at school dislike her? Will her parents divorce? Is her grandma dying? When Ava starts asking the pencil about all the bad things she imagines, it turns out some of her worrying may be valid after all. Now what?

If I were a magical pencil, I’d tell you! But I am not, so you’re out of luck; you’ll just have to read the book. Although actually, that doesn’t make you unlucky at all. We’re all pretty lucky that this book exists and we get to read Ava’s story — which is funny, sad, and inspiring. I’d even say it’s realistic because yes, it involves a magical pencil, but also Ava and her classmates are relatable.

Leave me a comment if you’ve read this book, or just answer my original question: What would YOU ask this pencil if you found it in your hand?

— Karen

Karen would probably turn it into a mind-reading pencil and constantly ask it what other people are thinking.

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