The Danger Box Paperback – Jun 1 2012
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Praise for The Danger Box
*"Balliett demonstrates how danger boxes are all around us...as vehicles that expose us to risky ideas and dreams." ― School Library Journal, starred review
"Spins a web of science and history into a spine-tingling yet uplifting tale. Kids are in for an adventure that leaves no reader untouched." ― Chicago Sun-Times
About the Author
Before becoming a full-time writer, Blue Balliett taught at Chicago's progressive University School for two years. Her first novel, Chasing Vermeer, won more than a dozen awards and sold in twenty-eight countries. Her second novel, The Wright 3, was also published to critical acclaim.
Inside This Book(Learn More)
Top Customer Reviews
I'm sorry it took me so long to read this book as I really enjoyed it. I love mysteries, as an adult, but don't usually read kid mysteries often except as read alouds and then I stick with tried and true authors I already know. Blue Balliett is new to me, so I haven't read her other critically acclaimed books but if this is only a sample of her work then I know I'm in for a treat reading her backlist.
This was a fun, exciting mystery based on a real missing item. Mixing science, history and mystery together with real life issues such as having only one parent or being raised by grandparents this is a gripping story and mystery. Add quirky characters and humour and you get a great book. One of the fun things about the book is that it is written in short chapters that vary in length, to as short as one page. Interspersed between the chapters is a kid produced newsletter that gives details of someone's life and asks the reader to guess "who am I?" in each issue.
While the mystery and side stories are entertaining, it is the two main characters that make the book. First is Zoomy, a half-black boy being raised by his white grandparents who has never met his real parents and has Pathological Myopia. He also has obsessive and anxiety issues making him a truly quirky character. When he meats his new friend she nicknames him Brain Boy. The other character is Firecracker Girl, Zoomy's nickname for her, until he learns her real name is Lorrol. Lorrol is loud, says what she wants as soon as it comes to her head and always on the go. She lives with her mother, a bad speller (just look at her name!Read more ›
Inside this box is a notebook wrapped in a blanket. Coping with life by making lists and keeping notebooks, Zoomy is understandably drawn to the book. While looking through it with his grandparents, he finds clues relating to Charles Darwin.
With the help of a summer visitor friend named Lorrol, Zoomy looks into the origins of the notebook. Before the two friends can delve further into the book's history, though, it is mysteriously stolen.
Is there someone who doesn't want the origins of the notebook to be discovered? What is the mystery behind the book? What dangers lie ahead for Zoomy and Lorrol?
This is a great, action-packed mystery for reluctant readers. The characters are well-drawn, and the plot is unique, well-developed, and does a good job of holding the reader's interest. Those who like mysteries, adventure, and action will enjoy reading THE DANGER BOX.
Reviewed by: Kira M
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Three Oaks, Michigan, might not be far geographically from Chicago's urban neighborhoods, but it's worlds apart culturally. "Three Oaks has one main street," writes 12-year-old Zoomy Chamberlain of his home town. "The train between Chicago and Detroit runs through the middle of the town but doesn't stop. It hasn't since 1959."
Zoomy is the kind of kid who notices details like that, who writes them down on one of the endless lists he's always keeping in one notebook or another. Zoomy might be legally blind, but he notices plenty, and he thinks all the time. In fact, sometimes his head gets so filled up with thoughts that he starts getting a little "jittery-splat," as he puts it --- so full of thoughts and feelings and worries that he just can't help tapping and twitching for a while. "My grandpa and grandma aren't like me," Zoomy says. "They're more like sheets drying outside on a breezy day --- they change directions without any fuss. But me, if I was a sheet and the wind blew me, I'd never stop flapping."
Zoomy loves his grandma and grandpa more than anything. They're the only family he's ever known, ever since his no-good father Buckeye abandoned him on his parents' doorstep when he was just a baby. But when Buckeye shows up in Three Oaks driving a stolen truck and looking to hide a stolen box, Zoomy is worried that this unknown, unfamiliar man might ruin the comfortable, safe, predictable world his grandparents have built for him.
Buckeye's secret does change things for Zoomy, but maybe not in the way anyone guesses. What's inside is a mystery, a book of clues that leads Zoomy to the library and to his very first friend, Lorrol, a girl with whom he has a lot in common. Lorrol loves solving problems, too, and together they try to get to the bottom of a bunch of mysteries in Three Oaks that have to do with history, science, and secrets that can change the world.
With THE DANGER BOX, Blue Balliett once again constructs an effective, engaging, fast-paced mystery that's grounded in real fact (the object that Zoomy discovers is one that's actually missing in real life) and in actual place (Three Oaks, Michigan, is a real location, its quirky sensibilities and friendly small-town feeling genuinely portrayed here). Through codes, cryptic "newspaper" stories and guessing games, Balliett invites readers to play along with Zoomy just as Zoomy and Lorrol urge people in their town --- and far beyond it --- to play along, too.
In her art-related mysteries, Balliett at times relied too heavily on odd coincidences and forced patterns to create suspense. Although THE DANGER BOX is still not a traditional, straightforward mystery, its emphasis on reader participation and its genuine air of suspense make it seem more traditional, while its thought-provoking questions and unforgettable hero make this a book that will live on in readers' imaginations long after the mystery has been solved.
--- Reviewed by Norah Piehl
This quirky kid is happy until his alcoholic father stumbles into their lives after a several-year absence. He is menacing and unkind, denying any kinship with Zoomy. The father has stolen a truck with a shrink-wrapped box in the back, and he deposits the box at Zoomy's house and disappears again.
Zoomy's grandpa opens the box and they find a small, hand-written notebook which Zoomy and his new friend Lorrol (pronounced Laurel) eventually discover is written by a world-famous scientist. That's the main mystery of the book.
Scary parts are: the father each time he shows up; and late in the book, a criminal seeking the return of the notebook sets a huge fire.
But "The Danger Box" ends well. Great messages about families coming in all shapes, outcasts finding their place, and kids doing amazing things, even in a tiny town in the middle of the country.
I don't know if listening to the book rather than reading it for myself made a difference, but I don't think this book is as good as the first three books.
What I liked about the book: The connection to Charles Darwin and scientific inquiry. I really like it when a work of fiction inspires a reader to learn more. I don't read a great deal of non-fiction, but after listening to this book, I felt an urge to do a little research on Charles Darwin. Zoomy was a likable character and the grandparents were quite humorous.
What I didn't like about the book: I found the book hard to follow. The story seemed to be all over the place. I also found the excerpts from "The Gas Gazette" to be distracting, rather than enhancing the story.
Recommended for 4th grade and up.
Mrs. Archer's Rating: 3 of 5.
The subject matter is tough, I'm not sure I would recommend this to a pre-teen. There is a lot of glamourization of autism spectrum disorders and this book is no exception.
The book could have used an editing and more development of the mystery plot line rather than focusing on the child's problems. Because there was such a focus on the child's disability, by belief never got suspended and I was left desiring more of the story as it related to the mystery.
Hope this is helpful.