Review Detail

Kids Fiction 1487
Fantastic Use of WWII History
Overall rating 
 
5.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style 
 
5.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable) 
 
N/A
Ted's mother's Uncle Ted is in the hospital, and it doesn't look good, so Ted visits him one last time. He's a quirky guy who ran a liquor store and had fought during WWII with a Japanese division. He can no longer speak, but he gives Ted some instructions that seem odd until the will is read. Ted has been given the contents of his great uncles apartment, and he must unravel a mystery to find a "treasure". To help him along, there is an online "Game of Ted" that shows him clues as to how he might be able to find objects in his uncle's apartment, and later, other places as well. Aided by his best friend Caleb (whose father works with Ted's at the university, teaching English, but has recently left Caleb and his mother) and the daughter of the new department head, Isabel, Ted starts to clean out the apartment and learns a lot about his uncle's background. When "Clark Kent" shows up from a Hawaiian newspaper, wanting to do an article on the elder Ted's war experience, the children are apprehensive. Clark later claims to be Stan Kellerman, whose father was one of the Monuments Men who tried to get artwork stolen by the Nazis back to rightful owners. The children don't want to give away any of their own clues, but eventually get dragged deep into some real life danger.
Good Points

The use of video games will give this instant appeal to middle grade readers, and it was well done to have the game be involved in the mystery. The real life parallels of finding clues in the apartment, and later, using escape room game skills to help Isabel get out of her house were fascinating even if the reader does not play games.

Isabel, a transplant from New York City, has a different view of the San Fernando Valley than Caleb and Ted do, and seeing it through her eyes (and seeing her through Ted's) creates some interesting juxtaposition. I love it when a city or area is so richly described throughout a book so that it almost becomes a character. Isabel's recent loss of her mother gives her father a good excuse for moving cross country, and isn't talked about excessively.

Caleb's family situation is realistic as well, and not overdone. The best family situation is, of course, Ted's. His father brings his own quirkiness to the family-- he is of Jewish descent, with family back in New York, teaches English literature, and has an obsession with a catalog of French farmhouse furniture. Ted's mother is of Japanese descent and was raised in Hawaii, but came to California to study as a nurse. Using this cultural background to then bring in WWII history was especially brilliant.

This book will appeal to a wide audience. Readers who enjoyed Schreiber's Game Over, Pete Watson will enjoy the video game component; fans of Fitzgerald's Under the Egg will enjoy reading more about the Monuments Men; detective story aficionados will revel in the inclusion of The Maltese Falcon story. This is a great book to hand to just about any middle grade reader since the cover is bright and appealing and the story highlights good friends involved in an intriguing mystery.
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