What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Secret Box follows cousins Jax, 12, Ethan, 13, and Tyler, 17, trying to solve the puzzle of the box. They frequently show poor judgment and land in hair-raising situations, from disobeying their parents to entering various premises without permission. ("Breaking and entering will look really, really bad on your high-school transcript. It will look bad on all our transcripts. So let's not do this," says Ethan in a vain attempt to be the voice of reason). But over the course of a story that involves archaeology, Greek mythology, online gaming, and using math to solve puzzles, the kids also look out for one another as well as other family members, and they mature a good deal, setting up further adventures to come. Commercial products are part of the scene-setting, and there's occasional use of "pissed," as Jax in particular has a gift for doing the wrong thing and annoying people. This is the first of a planned trilogy.
What's the story?
Jaqueline (Jax) Malone's vivid imagination and impulsive behavior have often gotten her in trouble with the hardworking single mom who's trying to raise her right. So when a mysterious package arrives on Jax's 12th birthday, and her mom takes one look at the return address and takes it away, Jax uses her wiles and the help of her cousins Ethan and Tyler to get it back. Soon THE SECRET BOX, which changes hands several times over the course of the story, has the kids embroiled in a perilous, hilarious adventure involving Greek mythology, magical forces, modern-day thieves, and the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Is it any good?
First-time author Whitaker Ringwald puts young characters in situations sure to make parents' blood run cold, from burglarizing the villains' motel room to running up room-service charges at a pricey hotel. But there's a madcap, cartoonish quality (augmented by the fact that one of the characters is developing online computer games) to the fast-moving plot that keeps things from getting too scary. Cousins/narrators Jax and Ethan are fresh, appealing, and often funny. Their very different voices help move the story along, keep it interesting, and provide insight. The first installment in a planned trilogy, The Secret Box solves some mysteries and leaves plenty for the sequel.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about why stories about finding one or both of your birth parents are so popular. What others have you read or seen in the movies? How do they turn out?
What other stories have you read that involve a magical object from ancient times causing trouble in today's world? How does this one compare?
Do you think it would be fun to find mystery locations using Tyler's method in the story? How might this skill be handy in real life?