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Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Danger Box Immensely Enjoyable

(Image from Indiebound)

No one understands 12-year-old Zoomy Chamberlain like his grandparents do. Gam keeps him supplied with fresh notebooks and purple pens so he can turn his obsessive worrying into nice, orderly lists, while Gumps' gentle humor keeps everything on an even keel. The kindly couple, who've cared for Zoomy since his birth mother left him on their front porch wrapped in nothing but an old sweatshirt, make him feel safe and loved. So what if he's a little odd, can't see very well even with his Coke bottle glasses, and has no friends his own age? Zoomy's perfectly happy to craft his lists, help Gump at his antique store, and tend the garden with Gam.

When his father shows up out of the blue, Zoomy's peaceful existence erupts. Buckeye Chamberlain's a drunk who's caused Gam and Gumps nothing but trouble. He barely acknowledges Zoomy's existence, staying at the house only long enough to dump a box in the toolshed. It's only after the police come around, informing the Chamberlains that Buckeye's driving a stolen pickup, that Zoomy gets curious about the box. Inside, he finds a crumbling journal full of lists, notes, and scientific observations. The almost inscrutable entries look so similar to Zoomy's lists that he feels an instant connection with the author of the diary. He wishes he knew who wrote it. The only clue is a date: 1835. There are plenty of old books in Gumps' antique store, so Zoomy knows it's probably not valuable. Except, what if it is?

The more Zoomy examines the diary, the more he learns - about friendship, family, and a world-reknowned scientist whose obsessive compulsions seem awfully familiar. Zoomy's fascinated by the journal and, even though he knows he should turn it over to the police, can't make himself give it up. With Buckeye on the loose and a strange man watching Zoomy's every move, things are getting downright dangerous for the boy who craves calm. Can he solve the journal's mystery before someone takes it from him? Or should he turn it over to the police before Buckeye makes good on his threat to harm the two people Zoomy loves most?

The Danger Box by Blue Balliet is the kind of adventure that will appeal to readers of all ages. With a cozy, small-town setting, warm, interesting characters, and an intriguing, unique mystery, it's a fun, heartwarming story that manages to be both exciting and educational. I enjoyed it immensely.

(Readalikes: Um, I can't think of any. Can you?)

Grade: B-

If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG for some mature themes (alcoholism, child abandonment, etc.)

To the FTC, with love: I received a finished copy of The Danger Box from the generous folks at Scholastic. Thank you!


  1. Wow, this looks like a very interesting book! Thank you for reviewing it!

  2. Sounds great! This one is definitely going on my TBR list!

  3. You can learn a lot about the real-world places that Blue Balliett chooses as her locales on her new website at Enjoy.

  4. A friend of mine has been recommending me to read it for a while now, but I've just been so busy. After reading your post, my curiosity has sparked so I now want to read the book badly. So thank you for sharing this!.

  5. This sounds like a great story. Thanks for the review.


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