Since Sam is always getting in trouble in school, his parents are more than happy to send him off to a sketchy summer adventure when he wins a contest. He gets on an airplane to travel out west, where he finds that there are only two other kids who have won the puzzle contest, Theo and Martina. The woman in charge claims that the adults who entered just didn't have the same skills, and the three kids all complement each other. Not surprisingly, they need to save the country, and possibly the world. The Founding Fathers of the US had a secret group with hidden treasure, and it's in danger from forces who want to use it for their own good.
Strengths: Decent ensemble cast, and it's nice that Martina has mad analytic skills. Adventure and danger in the west. Puzzles for those who like them. Ties with American history. Certainly had its good points.
Weaknesses: Very much like the movie National Treasure, and rather like The 39 Clues series in some ways. I had trouble suspending disbelief that Sam's parents just sent him off without checking the organization out.
What I really think: Since another mystery book with a similar cover (Broach's Missing on Superstition Mountain) doesn't circulate well, I think I'll pass. Sure to be a series.
240 pages Ages 8-12 978-1619637313 Keyword: National Parks
Recommended by: Karen Yingling, Librarian, Ohio USA
See more of her recommendations: http://msyinglingreads.blogspot.com
Other titles in the series: The Eagle's Quill
When middle school puzzle master Sam and history wiz Martina win a contest for a summer trip across the US, they discover they've been drafted into something vastly more extraordinary. Joining another kid on the trip, Theo, a descendant of George Washington himself, they must follow clues to find seven keys left behind by the Founding Fathers. Together the keys unlock Benjamin Franklin's greatest invention--a secret weapon intended to defend the country. Each key is hidden in a unique location around the U.S., protected with puzzles, riddles, and traps. This has kept the weapon safe . . . until now! Gideon Arnold, a dangerous descendant of the infamous Benedict Arnold, is on the chase.
In competition with Arnold and his thugs to reach the artifacts first, Sam, Martina, Theo, and readers must use their wits to solve ingenious puzzles, escape death-by-booby-trap, and, by the end of the series, save our nation by uncovering many of its greatest secrets.--From the publisher, Bloomsbury USA