Capture the Flag by Kate Messner is a contemporary mystery that is an excellent read for upper elementary and middle grade readers. Any young (or older) readers intrigued by the Indiana Jones or National Treasure movies will find something to enjoy in this first installment in what is sure to be a gripping new series.
A flag has been stolen from the Smithsonian, but this is not just any flag. It’s the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Who would dare to take such a priceless piece of American history? What could the possible motive be? It’s not like this would be something that could be easily sold, so why would someone take something that means so much to so many? That’s what a few curious kids are going to find out…
Anna, Henry, and José are snowed in at the airport in Washington, DC, and, when they hear about the theft of the newly restored flag, they become convinced that whoever took the flag must be snowed in as well. What starts as a way to pass the time soon becomes a quest to uncover a mystery with the potential to shake the nation. Along the way, they’ll encounter a man running for president (who has an odd fondness for Tootsie Rolls), tuba players from Pakistan, a guy with a snake tattoo, and a really large poodle.
They’ll also discover that they share a common bond. Anna, Henry, and José are all descended from artists or artisans who’ve sworn to protect the world’s artistic treasures. So what choice do they really have?! They must find the stolen flag before someone points the finger at the wrong person. But what can three kids do in a crowded airport with tight security? A whole lot, apparently. (As it turns out, airport security–at least in this story–isn’t designed to thwart three pre-teen detectives.)
As these three kids attempt to reveal the truth, they’ll step into a mess with huge ramifications. Can they get out of this safely and still uncover who’s behind the flag theft? And will they be prepared for what they eventually find? Who really captured the flag? Find out when you read this exciting tale of mystery and adventure by Kate Messner!
I look forward to sharing this book with my students. It has lots of literary allusions that I think many of my students–particularly fans of Harry Potter–will enjoy. I also know of several of my male students who will love this book simply because it’ll remind them of National Treasure. This book, while predictable for many adult readers, will keep younger readers enthralled from the first page. Even younger readers may think they know who is behind the theft, but it’s still a bit thrilling to read how this mystery reaches its inevitable conclusion. I will say, though, that the adults in this book were totally oblivious to what was going on around them. As a fine, upstanding adult (*snicker*), I was a little perturbed by how little these grown-ups noticed what these kids were doing. Young readers, though, will enjoy that a group of kids got up to all of these shenanigans right under adults’ noses.