Monday, September 20, 2010

The Danger Box

by Blue Balliett
Scholastic, 2010. 304 pgs. Fiction.

Zoomy lives with his grandmother and grandfather in Three Oaks, Michigan, because his father is jail bait who doesn't know he exists and his mother left him on their doorstep when he was a baby. Zoomy has Pathological Myopia and is legally blind. He likes to make lists in notebooks, using a purple pen. Suddenly his life is complicated by the appearance of his father, driving a stolen red pickup truck with an odd-looking box on the seat. "Dad" stashes the box in the garage and drives off, but not before being a jerk to the son he didn't know he had. In this way, Zoomy and his new friend Lorrol are drawn into a mystery--is the old notebook Zoomy finds in the box meaningless or a priceless artifact? Will Zoomy's icky father take him away from his beloved Gam and Gumps? And what does his and Lorrol's increasing interest in Charles Darwin have to do with it all? Blue Balliett's sparkling new puzzle/mystery is a rich layering of science, humanity, suspense, and family feeling. Demonized by many, Charles Darwin emerges here as a man of extraordinary curiosity, intellect, sensitivity and soul, and as Grandma Chamberlain wisely observes: " . . . why can't a person believe in both evolution and God? It's salt and pepper." A beautifully well-written story that should appeal to a wide range of children (and their parents).

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