Book Review: The Strangers

When we went to the library back in May (living 25 minutes from the library causes us to only go once a month), I was perusing the children’s books. Yes, a fifty-five year old adult was perusing the juvenile books.

You see, I love Narnia. I enjoyed The Hobbit. I liked The Mysterious Benedict Society. I liked Heidi, Polyanna, and The Little Princess and many more. So I decided to start browsing the children’s department to see what I could find.

I saw several new books displayed on top of the stacks that intrigued me. All three of them featured siblings that, seemingly, got along together. I was already at my book limit for the day so I took pictures of them so I could find them again next time. I was surprised to see that all three of them were available when we went back for our June visit.

I’ve already read the first one and really enjoyed it. So, I thought I’d share a little about it with you.

The Strangers by Margaret Peterson Haddix

This book starts out when three children: 11yo Chess, 9yo Emma, and 7yo Finn, come home from school and are not greeted with the happy mother they are used to seeing. In spite of their father being dead for seven years now, they are generally a very happy, if somewhat reclusive family.

Today is different though. On the news is the story of a kidnapping of three children: Rocky age 11, Emma age 9, and Finn age 7 from somewhere in Arizona. There are remarkable similarities and their mother is acting most strangely.

She must leave on an unexpected business trip and is leaving them with near strangers until she returns. Ms. Morales is very protective and acts a bit oddly, in the children’s estimation. Her daughter Natalie has an apparent better relationship with her smart phone than with her mother, which the Greystone children think strange.

I love the relationship the Greystone children have with each other. This is a good story to encourage good sibling relationships. I remember being a few chapters into the story and wondering if I was mistaken about what I thought was supposed to happen. About the time I had convinced myself that it was just about some very similar children being kidnapped (and trying to work through how that could be: cloning, twins, and so on) the alternate reality popped in. :D Don’t worry; I’m not giving any spoilers as it is stated plainly on the cover summary.

I love that this story did not make adults look stupid and that the children were the only ones smart enough to fix the problem. I liked how some adults worked with the children and the realistic reasoning behind Ms. Morales’ lack of involvement in the story.

I was sad to realize that this is the first book in a series and that the next book is not available yet. :D I’ve read so many series lately, I was looking forward to a good old one books story. :D But that didn’t happen. I will look forward to the release of the second book.

As I read the book I was so engrossed in it that I was surprised that it is juvenile fiction; it was that engaging for me. Emma loves math, so there was that whole element there that I enjoyed too.

Bottom Line:

  • I recommend this book. :)
  • I like the relationship between the siblings.
  • I like how they work together.
  • I like how the relationship with Natalie develops.
  • I like how Natalie’s behavior (concerning phone and mother) is addressed or at least acknowledged.

So many times siblings fight or have bad relationships in books and I appreciate that this is not the case here. It is also refreshing to see how they protect Finn and include him.

A few more things to consider:

There are some tense situations in this book but I feel they were handled well. However, I thought I would mention them in case you or your child doesn’t handle some of these situations well or they are triggers in your household.

  • Kidnapping
  • Mysterious similarities with other people (same names and birthdays)
  • Dead father
  • Abandonment
  • Bad Government (in alternate reality)
  • Sneaking around
  • Chase scene
  • Trial and Death Sentence Possiblility

Because of these tense situations, depending on your child, I would recommend reading it together, so that you can talk about some of these things.

No matter if you read along or not, definitely have your child tell you about the story (narrate), so that you can talk about some of these situations and discuss them. Are they portrayed in a realistic manner? How does your child feel about them?

I would have had no qualms with my children reading this book and I would have even encouraged it. I enjoyed it so much that Tiffany read it shortly after I did and also enjoyed it. Although she did not like the ending. I’m expecting it to be straightened out in the next book. ;)

Well, I hope this helps you. Let me know if you or your kids read it and what you thought of it.

Until next time,

Michele ºÜº

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