Sent, by Margaret Peterson Haddix, for Timeslip Tuesday

Sent, by Margaret Peterson Haddix (Simon and Schuster, 2009, middle grade, 308pp), is the second book of The Missing. It's not entirely necessary to have read Found, the first book of the series, before reading Sent, but it will spoil Found considerably if you read this one first....so consider this whole review a spoiler for Found.

Jonah, Katherine, Chip and Alex were ordinary 21st century kids. It's true that three of them were orphans, found as babies on a mysterious airplane that appeared out of no where, but other than that, life was normal. But then they learn that all those babies were rescued from certain death back in various pasts, and that the time has come for them to be sent home again to meet their destinies and fix the wrinkles that have formed in time. If, like Chip and Alex, you are the Princes in the Tower, supposedly killed by your wicked uncle Richard III, the smooth course of history might be the last thing on your mind.

When Chip and Alex are sent back to 15th century, Jonah and Katherine travel with them, much to the dismay of JB and the other mysterious time guardians of the future, who are working to Fix things. Chip and Alex gradually take on their medieval identities, caught up in a perilous contest over the crown of England. But Jonah and Katherine are determined to bring them safely back to the present, even if it means donning medieval armor and joining in the Battle of Bosworth Field...

It's a fast, fun read. Haddix is an excellent story-teller, and keeps things swinging along.

Despite the engrossing action, however, there's not a whole lot of emotional wallop to the story. Partly this is because the mechanisms of plot are given more prominence than the subtleties of characterization and emotional response--although the kids have distinct personalities, they are painted with a rather wide brush.

In larger part this lack of emotional punch is due to the fact that these kids have it very easy, time-travel wise. They are in touch with JB for most of their time in the past, and can be pulled out at any moment, and, even in the final battle, there is no immediate sense that they will come to any harm. And they are never modern children forced to act convincingly in the past. Chip and Alex have ready made identities to slip into, and Jonah and Katherine are handily made invisible by a futuristic gizmo that translates for them. Even when they have to leave their translator in the present, after a brief break from the middle ages, they get an injection of linguistic elixir that solves the language problem...

But although this isn't the most powerful story I've ever read, it is a lovely history lesson packaged in adventure, one that (for the most part) steers clear of obvious didacticism. In this aspect of the book I give Haddix high marks. Her Richard III is not a monster, and the princes in the tower are clearly caught in a complex situation for which there is no easy answer. I loved the way she brought Shakespeare's version into the picture, raising the issue of literary propaganda!

In short, this is a good, kid-friendly read that's also a great introduction to the trickiness of the historian's craft. I'll be looking forward to the next books in the series...

Sent has been nominated for the Cybils in middle grade science fiction/fantasy, and its publisher, Simon and Schuster, very generously provided us panelists with review copies--thanks.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the review. I read the first one and wasn't overly impressed, so I doubt I'll read this one. BUT my students will and your review will help me when they have questions about it!


Free Blog Counter

Button styles