by Andrew Clements
Atheneum, 2010. 143 pgs. Fiction.
Ben Pratt is running to class when he's stopped by Old Man Keane, the janitor who has slipped on the stairs and broken his ankle. Keane doesn't want Ben's help--just wants to hand him an ancient gold coin with a message from the school's founder: "First and always my school belongs to the children. DEFEND IT." When Mr. Keane dies later that day, Ben realizes saving the school has become his job, a nearly impossible task since the grounds and buildings have been sold to an amusement park conglomerate, and are slated to be torn down when the school year ends. Ben shares his secret with his friend Jill and together the two try to figure out the instructions on the back of the coin: "If attacked, look nor'-nor'east from amidships on the upper deck." Their investigations are complicated by the sinister (and as it turns out, bogus) new janitor and by Ben's challenging the school bully in a sailboat race. Suspense and excitement build as Jill and Ben race to find the clues that will save the school, but don't expect any resolution in this first volume--the friends barely get close enough to the edge to qualify their story as a cliffhanger, but children should eat this book up and anxiously await the next.