Missing on Superstition Mountain

Book review by
Darienne Stewart, Common Sense Media
Missing on Superstition Mountain Book Poster Image
Suspenseful series opener leaves much unresolved for sequel.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value
Arizona's real-life Superstition Mountain and its traditional legends, especially cautionary tales of gold fever, provide the context for this fictional narrative. Avid reader Henry draws frequent comparisons to his favorite literary works and regularly explains vocabulary words to his younger brother.
 
Positive Messages
The children chip away at the mystery of Superstition Mountain with a combination of bravery and solid research. Working together, they're more successful than many adults at discovering the mountain's secrets.
 
Positive Role Models & Representations
Henry's sensitive to the others' fears and worries. The brothers befriend Delilah despite an acrimonious first encounter, and the four children go on to become a cohesive team. To solve the mystery, they conduct research at the library and seek out a local expert. The children start by defying their parents' rules to satisfy their own curiosity, but later to try to do the right thing when they find three skulls on the mountain.
 
Violence & Scariness
Someone shoots at two young characters; a character suffers serious injuries in a fall. The kids learn about the menacing mountain's violent history, including decapitations, and find the skulls of three children. One character talks about losing a parent in a car crash.
 
Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Missing on Superstition Mountain is a suspenseful adventure in the tradition of Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys. The children disregard several rules and conceal their activities from adults, putting themselves in grave danger, but their hearts are in the right place. Inspired by the history and legends of Arizona's Superstition Mountain, including several disappearances and gruesome slayings, this tale is the first installment in a series -- and raises more questions than it answers.
 

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What's the story?

Chicago boys Simon, Henry, and Jack Barker move to Arizona, where ominous Superstition Mountain dominates their small town. Many people have died or disappeared looking for a rumored gold mine there, and the boys' parents (and every other adult they meet) forbid them to go near the place. But when their cat bolts up the mountain, they chase after her and make a grisly discovery. The boys and their neighbor, Delilah, begin to dig into the mountain's fascinating mysteries -- but someone seems determined to keep them away, no matter the cost.

Is it any good?

Inspired by the history and legends surrounding the noted landmark outside Phoenix, AZ, MISSING ON SUPERSTITION MOUNTAIN is a promising start to a mystery series. Author Elise Broach weaves a classic, satisfying adventure tale complete with sinister grownups, lost treasure, and perilous mishaps. Black-and-white illustrations by Antonio Javier Caparo enhance the spooky vibe.
 
The first book resolves very little, introducing many intriguing characters and plotlines only to set them aside, presumably for more attention later in the series. The anticlimactic ending's a letdown after such an enjoyable journey, but patient readers will eagerly follow this quartet of adventurers in the next installment, Treasure on Superstition Mountain. They may also want to read one of the many classic adventures mentioned in the story.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the children's forbidden visits to the mountain. Are they justified in breaking the rules? What would you do in the same situation?
  • Do you think a story that ends with so many unanswered questions is still satisfying? Why do you think  mysteries are so popular with kids?

  • How might the story be different if the Barker boys had easy access to the Internet?
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