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The Strangers: Greystone Secrets, Book 1

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
The Strangers: Greystone Secrets, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Kids travel to another dimension in clever sci-fi adventure.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

In The Strangers, Emma uses her math skills to solve codes and ciphers.

Positive Messages

Family members who support one another can accomplish seemingly insurmountable tasks. Persistence and flexibility are extremely useful character traits.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Each Greystone kid respects and supports all the others. Chess, Emma, and Finn never give up looking for their mother. They are brave, bright, resourceful, and friendly children, but with some hidden edges.

Violence & Scariness

The Greystones interrupt an outdoor trial, Finn throws smoke bombs at the guards, who then begin to chase him, his siblings, and some other children.


What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Strangers: Greystone Secrets, Book 1 is a science fiction adventure novel about siblings discovering another dimension and working together to find their missing mom. The first in a series by Margaret Peterson Haddix (The Always War), it presents a sensitive and supportive portrait of family life. There's a low level of violence, more implied than shown, that includes one of the kids throwing smoke bombs at some guards. 

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What's the story?

At the start of THE STRANGERS, the Greystone kids -- Chess, Emma, and Finn -- see their mom react to news of a kidnapping involving kids with similar names and ages as themselves. Before they can question her, she suddenly leaves on a business trip, leaving them in the care of a neighbor, Ms. Morales, and her teen daughter Natalie. The Greystone kids notice strange clues left behind by their mom, and when they suspect she's in danger, their quest to solve these puzzles grows ever more urgent. Soon they're exploring a mysterious passageway beneath their house and wondering where they'll end up.

Is it any good?

Wondering what might have been fuels the plots of many science fiction novels, but this book keeps the alternate-world premise feeling fresh and exciting. The Greystone kids are a well-realized set of siblings, immediately recognizable as types, but with plenty of other layers to keep them interesting. Author Margaret Peterson Haddix sets up a captivating series of puzzles regarding their mother's whereabouts, and the solutions are riveting and smart. Suspenseful all the way through, The Strangers ends on a cliffhanger, and young readers will be clamoring for more.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the alternative universe in The Strangers. Why are stories about alternate universes popular? Why is it appealing -- or scary -- to wonder if someone very similar to you lives in another dimension?

  • What do you think about the puzzles in The Strangers? Do you think you could solve a mystery by solving puzzles? 

  • In times of trouble, how can family members work together to keep one another safe? What practical steps can you take to prepare for a disaster? 

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Themes & Topics

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For kids who love science fiction and mysteries

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