Among the Brave (Shadow Children Series #5)

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Overview

A Reluctant Hero

Trey may have saved Luke's life, but he still thinks of himself as a coward who can barely stand to be outdoors. Now Trey finds out Luke has been taken prisoner at Population Police headquarters. Trey is terrified, but he knows that if he doesn't rescue his friend, no one will.
At police headquarters, Trey impersonates an officer to try getting to Luke. But just when it looks like he's close, ...

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Overview

A Reluctant Hero

Trey may have saved Luke's life, but he still thinks of himself as a coward who can barely stand to be outdoors. Now Trey finds out Luke has been taken prisoner at Population Police headquarters. Trey is terrified, but he knows that if he doesn't rescue his friend, no one will.
At police headquarters, Trey impersonates an officer to try getting to Luke. But just when it looks like he's close, Trey suddenly finds himself in danger of exposing not just himself but all shadow children.

In a society that allows families to have only two children, a group of third-borns tries to save themselves and others like them.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A compelling story, full of intrigue, danger, and adventure."
Booklist

"The level of tension barely lets up, ensuring that 'can't-put-it-down' headlong impulse to keep reading."
Booklist

"A fast and wild ride."
School Library Journal

Publishers Weekly
Fifth in the Shadow Children series, which began with Among the Hidden, Among the Brave by Margaret Peterson Haddix centers on third child Trey, who must rescue Mark and Luke Garner from the Population Police. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
In a futuristic society that prohibits more than two children per family, 13-year-old Trey is forced to be a hero. As a third-born child, he has been in hiding all his life. Simply being outdoors is frightening. Now he must not only venture outside, but also find his friends and, somehow, try to rescue them. He reluctantly joins forces with his friend Luke's brash brother, and must push himself even more when making alliances with people who may—or may not—be resistance members. In this fifth book of the "Shadow Children" series, which has previously centered on the character, Luke, readers are treated to viewing this peculiar society from Trey's perspective. The tension is gripping and chapters end on cliff-hangers that will encourage even reluctant readers to keep reading. Readers will feel Trey's intense fear but cheer him on as he takes small steps that lead him to bravery. Haddix's characters are well developed and her plot well drawn. Though dark fantasy, and perhaps too frightening for children at the younger end of the recommended age group, there is a message of hope at the end. And the promise of another installment in the series. 2004, Simon & Schuster, Ages 9 to 12.
—Kathryn Erskine
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-This fifth book about third-born children who must go into hiding to avoid elimination picks up where Among the Barons (S & S, 2003) ended. The ruthless head of the Population Police has taken over the government, and executions are common. Trey has gone to Mr. Talbot's home seeking help to rescue Luke and his other third-born friends just as the man is taken away in handcuffs. Desperate, he teams up with Luke's older, more reckless brother, Mark, to try to find the others. Mark is caught and Trey enlists in the Population Police, his only hope of freeing him. To escape, the boys make a deal with a resistance member disguised as a guard to rescue a prisoner from another torture camp. The prisoner turns out to be none other than Mr. Talbot, who headed the resistance movement. Mark and Trey are able to rescue their friends, but are unable to help the guard who helped them. The adults are ready to give up but the third-born children vow to keep up the fight. Even though elements of the plot seem timeworn and not all of it is plausible, this book provides a fast and wild ride that will appeal to reluctant readers. Once again, Haddix makes real how hard ordinary and not-so-ordinary actions would be for kids who've spent most of their lives hidden away. Although this installment could be read on its own, this series works best when read in sequence.-Tina Zubak, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, PA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780689857959
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
  • Publication date: 8/30/2005
  • Series: Shadow Children Series , #5
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 48,968
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 750L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.50 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Margaret Peterson Haddix is the author of many critically and popularly acclaimed YA and middle grade novels, including The Missing series and the Shadow Children series. A graduate of Miami University (of Ohio), she worked for several years as a reporter for The Indianapolis News. She also taught at the Danville (Illinois) Area Community College. She lives with her family in Columbus, Ohio. Visit her at HaddixBooks.com.

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Read an Excerpt

Among the Brave


By Margaret Peterson Haddix

Aladdin

Copyright © 2004 Margaret Peterson Haddix
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-689-85795-0


Chapter One

Great, Trey thought.I do one brave thing in my entire life, and now it's like, 'Got anything dangerous to do? Send Trey. He can handle it.' Doesn't anyone remember that Cowardice is my middle name?

Actually, only two other people in the entire world had ever known Trey's real name, and one of them was dead. But Trey didn't have time to think about that. He had a crisis on his hands. He'd just seen two people killed, and others in danger. Maybe he'd been in danger too. Maybe he still was. He and his friends had left the scene of all that death and destruction and total confusion, jumped into a car with an absolute stranger, and rushed off in search of help. They'd driven all night, and now the car had stopped in front of a strange house in a strange place Trey had never been before.

And Trey's friends actually expected him to take control of the situation.

"What are you waiting for?" his friend Nina asked. "Just go knock on the door."

"Why don't you?" Trey asked, which was as good as admitting that he wasn't as brave as a girl. No courage, no pride. Translate that into Latin and it'd be a good personal motto for him. Nulla fortitudo nulla superbia, maybe? Trey allowed himself a moment to drift into nostalgia for the dayswhen his biggest challenges had been figuring out how to translate Latin phrases.

"Because," Nina said. "You know. Mr. Talbot and I - well, let's just say I've got a lot of bad memories."

"Oh," Trey said. And, if he could manage to turn down his fear a notch or two, he did understand. Mr. Talbot, the man they had come to see, had once put Nina through an extreme test of her loyalties. It had been necessary, everyone agreed - even Nina said so. But it hadn't been pleasant. Mr. Talbot had kept her in prison; he'd threatened her with death.

Trey was glad he'd never been put through a test like that. He knew: He'd fail.

Trey glanced up again at the hulking monstrosity of a house where Mr. Talbot lived. He wasn't dangerous, Trey reminded himself. Mr. Talbot was going to be their salvation. Trey and Nina and a few of their other friends had come to Mr. Talbot's so they could dump all their bad news and confusion on him. So he would handle everything, and they wouldn't have to.

Trey peered toward the front of the car, where his friends Joel and John sat with the driver. Or, technically, the "chauffeur," a word derived from the French. Only the original French word - chauffer? - didn't mean "to drive." It meant "to warm" or "to heat" or something like that, because chauffeurs used to drive steam automobiles.

Not that it mattered. Why was he wasting time thinking about foreign verbs? Knowing French wasn't going to help Trey in the least right now. It couldn't tell him, for example, whether he could trust the driver. Everything would be so easy if he could know, just from one word, whether he could send the driver to knock on Mr. Talbot's door while Trey safely cowered in the car.

Or how about Joel or John? Granted, they were younger than Trey, and maybe even bigger cowards. They'd never done anything brave. Still -

"Trey?" Nina said. "Go!"

She reached around him and jerked open the door. Then she gave him a little shove on the back, so suddenly that he was surprised to find himself outside the car, standing on his own two feet.

Nina shut the door behind him.

Trey took a deep breath. He started to clench his fists out of habit and fear - a habit of fear, a fear-filled habit - and only stopped when pain reminded him that he was still clutching the sheaf of papers he'd taken from a dead man's desk. He glanced down and saw a thin line of fresh blood, stark and frightening on the bright white paper.

Trey's next breath was sharp and panicked. Had someone shot him? Was he in even greater danger than he'd imagined? His ears buzzed, and he thought he might pass out from terror. But nothing else happened, and after a few moments his mind cleared a little.

He looked at the blood again. It was barely more than a single drop.

Okay, Trey steadied himself. You just had a panic attack over a paper cut. Let's not be telling anybody about that, all right?

A paper cut indoors would have been no big deal. But outdoors - outdoors, the need to breathe was enough to panic him.

He forced himself to breathe anyway. And, by sheer dint of will, Trey made himself take a single step forward. And then another. And another.

Mr. Talbot had a long, long walkway between the street and his house, and the chauffeur had inconveniently parked off to the side, under a clump of trees that practically hid the car from the house. Trey considered turning around, getting back into the car, and telling the chauffeur to pull up closer - say, onto the Talbots'front porch. But that would mean retracing his steps, and Trey felt like he'd already come so far.

Maybe even all of three feet.

With part of his mind, Trey knew he was being foolish - a total baby, a chicken, a fear-addled idiot.

It's not my fault, Trey defended himself. It's all ... conditioning. I can't help the way I was raised. And that was the understatement of the year. For most of his thirteen years, Trey hadn't had control over any aspect of his life. He was an illegal third child - the entire Government thought he had no right to exist. So he'd had to hide, from birth until age twelve, in a single room. And then, when he was almost thirteen, when his father died ...

You don't have time to think about that now, Trey told himself sternly. Walk.

He took a few more steps forward, propelled now by a burning anger that he'd never managed to escape. His mind slipped back to a multiple-choice test question he'd been asking himself for more than a year: Whom do you hate? A) Him; B) Her; C) Yourself? It never worked to add extra choices: (D) All of the above; E) A and B; F) A and C; or G) B and C? Because then the question just became, Whom do you hate the most?

Stop it! Trey commanded himself. Just pretend you're Lee.

Trey's friend Lee had been an illegal third child like Trey, but Lee had grown up out in the country, on an isolated farm, so he'd been able to spend plenty of time outdoors. He'd almost, Trey thought, grown up normal. As much as Trey feared and hated being outdoors, Lee craved it.

"How can you stand it?" Trey had asked Lee once. "Why aren't you terrified? Don't you ever think about the danger?"

"I guess not," Lee had said, shrugging. "When I'm outdoors I look at the sky and the grass and the trees, and I guess that's all I think about."

Trey looked at the sky and the grass and the trees around him, and all he could think was, Lee should be here, walking up to Mr. Talbot's door, instead of me. Lee had been in the car with Trey and Nina and Joel and John until just about ten minutes earlier. But Lee had had the chauffeur drop him and another boy, Smits, off at a crossroads in the middle of nowhere because, Lee had said, "I have to get Smits to safety."

Trey suspected that Lee was taking Smits home, to Lee's parents' house, but Trey was trying very hard not to think that. It was too dangerous. Even thinking about it was dangerous.

And thinking about it made Trey jealous, because Lee still had a home he could go to, and parents who loved him, and Trey didn't.

But Lee would be dead right now if it weren't for me, Trey thought with a strange emotion he barely recognized well enough to name. Pride. He felt proud. And, cowardly Latin motto or no, he had a right to that pride.

For Trey's act of bravery - his only one ever - had been to save Lee's life the night before.

Beneath the pride was a whole jumble of emotions Trey hadn't had time to explore. He felt his leg muscles tense, as if they too remembered last night, remembered springing forward at the last minute to knock Lee to the side, only seconds before the explosion of glass in the very spot where Lee had stood....

It's easier being brave when you don't have time to think about your other options, Trey thought. Unlike now.

He had so many choices, out here in the open. The ones that called to him most strongly were the ones that involved hiding. How fast would he be able to run back to the car, if he needed to? Would the clump of trees be a good hiding place? Would he be able to squeeze out of sight between that giant flowerpot on the porch and the wall of the Talbot house?

Trey forced himself to keep walking. It seemed a miracle when he finally reached the front porch. He cast a longing glance toward the flowerpot, but willed himself to stab a finger at the doorbell.

Dimly, he could hear a somber version of "Westminster Chimes" echoing from indoors. Nobody came. He took a second to admire the brass door knocker, elegantly engraved with the words, GEORGE A. TALBOT, ESQUIRE. Still nobody came.

Too bad, Trey thought. Back to the car, then. But his legs didn't obey. He couldn't face the thought of walking back through all that open space again. He pressed the doorbell again.

This time the door opened.

Trey was torn between relief and panic. Relief won when he saw Mr. Talbot's familiar face on the other side of the door. See, this wasn't so bad, Trey told himself. I walked all the way up here without my legs even trembling. Take that, Nina! I am braver than you!

Trey started thinking about what he was supposed to say to Mr. Talbot. He hadn't worried about that before. Words were so much easier than action.

"I'm so glad you're home, Mr. Talbot," Trey began. "You won't believe what happened. We just -"

But Mr. Talbot cut him off.

"No, no, I do not want to buy anything to support your school's lacrosse team," he said. "And please do not come back. Tell the rest of your team that this is a no-soliciting house. Can't you see I'm a busy man?"

Mr. Talbot's eyebrows beetled together, like forbidding punctuation.

"But, Mr. Talbot - I'm not - I'm -"

Too late. The door slammed in his face.

"- Trey," Trey finished in a whisper, talking now to the door.

He doesn't remember me, Trey thought. It wasn't that surprising. Every time Mr. Talbot had visited Hendricks School, where Trey and Lee were students, Trey had been in the background, no more noticeable than the wallpaper.

Lee, on the other hand, had been front and center, talking to Mr. Talbot, joking with him, going off for special meals with him.

Mr. Talbot wouldn't have slammed the door in Lee's face, Trey thought. Was Trey jealous of that, too? No. I just wish Lee were here to talk with Mr. Talbot now.

Trey sighed, and began gathering the nerve to ring the doorbell again.

But then two things happened, one after the other.

First, a car shot out from under the house - from a hidden garage, Trey guessed. It was black and long and official-looking. Its tires screeched, winding around the curves of the driveway. Trey caught a glimpse of two men in uniforms in the front seat, and Mr. Talbot in the back. Mr. Talbot held up his hands toward the window, toward Trey, and Trey saw a glint of something metal around his wrists.

Handcuffs?

The black car bounced over the curb and then sped off down the street.

Trey was still standing there, his mouth agape, his mind struggling to make sense of what he'd seen, when the car he'd ridden in - the car that Nina, Joel, and John were still hiding in - began to inch forward, under the cover of the trees. Trey felt a second of hope: They're coming to rescue me!

But the car was going in the wrong direction.

Trey stared as the car slid away, just a shadow in the trees, then a black streak on the open road.

Then it was gone.

They left me! Trey's mind screamed. They left me!

He was all alone on an uncaring man's porch - an arrested man's porch? - out in the great wide open where anyone in the world might see him.

Without thinking, Trey dived behind the huge flowerpot, to hide.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Among the Brave by Margaret Peterson Haddix Copyright © 2004 by Margaret Peterson Haddix. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

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Introduction

ABOUT THE BOOKS

Imagine living in the shadows, hiding your existence from almost everyone in the world. This is the plight of Jen, Trey, Nina, and all other third-born children. With their nation plagued by drought and food shortages, their government has made it illegal for families to have more than two children. Yet thousands of thirds exist without identification cards or rights of any kind. As these shadow children begin to discover and communicate with each other, their worldviews broaden. They begin to wonder why their government claims that they are the cause of all of their nation's ills, and they question the worth of their leaders themselves. Fearfully, unwittingly, or angrily, these secret children emerge from the shadows to fight for change.

The seven Shadow Children novels are told from the viewpoints of Luke, the beloved third son of a rural family; Matthias, the abandoned urban orphan raised by elderly moralist Samuel; and other third children. Their narratives offer readers differing perspectives on the compelling questions explored in the series. Should the government have the right to dictate the size of families or other aspects of how people choose to live their lives? In an age of televised news, how can one be certain what is really happening in the world and what is illusion — who is telling the truth and who isn't? Can individual actions truly affect the future of a nation? And, ultimately, what does it mean to live in freedom?

DISCUSSION TOPICS

Why do you think some families decided to have third children despite their society's desperate circumstances and strict laws? Do you think that the benefits of having another child would outweigh thesacrifices that must be made? Why or why not?

Each third child comes from a different background and type of hiding place. How are these children treated by the people who care for them and hide them? How do they feel about their circumstances? How do these feelings affect their actions?

How does the government enforce its rules? Do you think its plan for dealing with the low food supply is a good one? Is it justified? Must governments limit individual freedoms to protect their citizens as a group? Is this the case in your own country?

To come out of hiding, shadow children must assume false identities. How would you feel if you had to live under an assumed name, denying your relationship to your family? Which shadow child's feelings about this situation are most like your own and why?

Are the shadow children in more danger when they are hidden or when they venture out into the larger, more complicated world? In what ways do you think this would be a difficult transition to make? Would you feel safer or less safe out in the world?

Shadow children are often uncertain whether people are their friends or their enemies. Cite examples when third children question the loyalties of Mr. Talbot, Smits, Oscar, and even members of the Population Police Force. Is trust as difficult in your world?

A critical challenge faced by each shadow child is the sense that one individual cannot make a difference. When do Luke, Nina, Trey, and Matthias express this sense? Are they correct? What is the relationship between this feeling and the leadership roles these children ultimately take on?

How do different characters contribute to the fight for the freedom of the shadow children? How effective is Jen's rally? Does Luke help the cause when he joins the Grant family of Barons? Can Trey's fear be a type of courage? How do Mr. and Mrs. Talbot, Mr. Hendricks, and even Philip Twinings help the fight?

It becomes increasingly clear that the government is misinforming its citizens. What lies are told on the public television channels? How is the information on the Baron channels different? What roles do television and the Internet play in the novels?

Why do you think the government is, in a sense, framing the shadow children for the nation's problems? Whom do you think the starving population would be angry with if they did not have the shadow children to blame for their hunger?

In what ways does hunger affect different characters and their actions? If your family were hungry, would you have joined the Population Police? Why or why not?

When Aldous Krakenaur and the Population Police are defeated in the final book, are the third children truly safe? What does Luke do to expose Oscar? Why does Nina feel that only a third child could have stopped Oscar?

What kind of government do you think — or hope — the shadow children will help to create? How does Luke imagine the future? Do you think it will be perfect? Do you think it will be better? Explain your answer.

QUOTATIONS TO DISCUSS

Among the Hidden begins with Luke musing: "I will never be allowed outside again. Maybe never again as long as I live." What might you do if you were facing your final moments outside? How does this passage affect your understanding of the series?

Jen tries to persuade Luke to join the rally, saying, "You've got to come, Luke, or you'll hate yourself the rest of your life. When you don't have to hide anymore, even years from now, there'll always be some small part of you whispering, 'I don't deserve this. I didn't fight for it. I'm not worth it.' But you are, Luke, you are." List three ways Jen's words are important. How is Jen, who dies, a key character throughout the series? Compare and contrast the characters of Jen and Samuel as moral thinkers and leaders.

Near the end of Among the Impostors, Mr. Hendricks explains that, "The Population Police can lie too...It suits the government's purposes to say they are arresting third children rather than traitors." Why might this be better for the government's purposes? Are third children the real cause of the nation's troubles?

Among the Betrayed opens with Nina's thought that "...like the bogeyman and the Big Bad Wolf and the Wicked Witch and the creep-show monster, the Population Police belonged in stories and nightmares, not real life." What makes these rebellious thoughts? What makes these brave thoughts?

In Chapter 29 of Among the Barons, "Luke remembered a quote from one of his history books: 'The king is dead, long live the king.'" How do Luke's experiences help him understand these words spoken upon the death of France's Kings? Is the transfer of power in Luke's world really this clear? How might this quote be understood in terms of the way leadership changes hands in your country?

In Chapter 21 of Among the Brave, Luke's brother, Mark, complements Trey on being braver than him. As Trey Responds, he realizes, "People are brave in different ways." Explain this quote in terms of the different types of bravery depicted in the series.

In Chapter 19 of Among the Enemy, Matthias wonders why he could save a Population Police officer, then fight against him. "It had to do with Samuel telling him, over and over again, 'Killing is wrong.' Even...back in the cabin, Matthias hadn't wanted to be an accomplice to any more murder." How does the memory of Samuel affect Matthias's thoughts and actions? How do Samuel's words affect your understanding of the relationship between third children and their government?

At the end of Chapter 8 in Among the Free, Luke asks a boy about his loyalties. "'Which side am I on?' [the boy] repeated. 'What do you think? Whatever side feeds me — that's the one for me.'" Luke later muses, "Shouldn't the enemies of my enemies be my friends?" Discuss loyalty in terms of these two quotations. Could you ever be driven to think like the hungry boy? Why or why not? How would you respond to Luke's circular question about the enemies of his enemies?

WRITING AND RESEARCH ACTIVITIES

Hiding

The premise of the Shadow Children series is that third children must live in hiding, pretending not to exist. Imagine you are a third child. Write three to five journal entries describing your life, how you feel about it, and your dreams, if any, for the future.

Margaret Peterson Haddix calls these novels the "Shadow Children" series. What other words, such as hidden or forbidden, describe third children? Look up "shadow" in the dictionary. Based on these exercises, write a short essay explaining why "shadow" is, or is not, the best word to use in the series title. If not, what series title would you suggest?

Make a "top ten" list of reasons people join the Population Police. Then, in the character of one of those of people, write a speech explaining to the Population Police why you have come to join them. Read your speech aloud to classmates.

In the final book, Luke balks at being interviewed on camera, stating that if he is free then he has the right to say nothing. Why does Luke say this? Role-play this scene, having one classmate act as the interviewer while others play liberated citizens. You may also want to role-play the scene in which citizens begin to testify against third children once again. Discuss ways in which these role-plays are similar and/or different.

Population

The world's six billionth child was born in 1999, and our population continues to grow. A growing population poses risks to the planet. Imagine you have just been told that you are child number six billion. Write a journal entry describing how you feel about this fact.

The world's three most populous countries are China, India, and the United States. Research how population growth has been handled in one of these countries. Compare and contrast the different population changes and policies with the research of other classmates or friends. Have the policies been successful? What positive and negative effects might these policies have in the future? (Hint: Excellent data is available on the Population Reference Bureau website: www.prb.org.)

Food and Hunger

Luke's family lives on a farm, and he is very interested in gardening and hydroponics, the growing of plants in a nutrient-rich water rather than soil. Learn more about these disciplines by trying to grow some vegetables of your own or trying your hand at hydroponics.

The people of the Shadow Children world sometimes act against their moral senses because they are starving. What does it mean to be hungry? Write a paragraph describing how your stomach, limbs, and mind feel when you have missed a meal. Compare this to an encyclopedia definition of starvation. Based on these observations and facts, write a defense of the starving people's bad acts.

How do we deal with hunger and famine in our modern world? Research the policies that different countries have for dealing with hunger both at home and abroad. Stage a debate, with each person advocating a different approach, and see if you can reach a consensus about which methods are the most effective.

Governments and Control

Are these novels about a strong government preventing famine through limiting population? Or are they about a failing government attempting to keep control despite the famine by blaming third children for the entire population's hunger? Write a paragraph explaining which of the above sentences best describes the crisis of the Shadow Children series and why.

Research the population control efforts of the Chinese government, the vilification of the Jewish people by the Nazis in World War II, or the racial hierarchy established between the Hutu and Tutsi people in Rwanda. Present an informative poster based on your research to friends and classmates. Discuss the ways in which each of these governments resembles the actions of the Shadow Children government. Then, if desired, write a paragraph stating which real-life situation you think is most similar to the series and why.

To promote the idea that third children are villains, the government feeds the population propaganda through television and posters. Find the dictionary definition of propaganda. Look for examples of propaganda in the novels. Then create your own propaganda poster defending or blaming third children for the troubles of their nation.

Luke and his friends ultimately have the opportunity to help create a new government. With classmates or friends, brainstorm a list of rules, regulations, and freedoms for the new government you would create for the Shadow Children. Or you and your classmates can each draft a new constitution for the Shadow Children to present to your class. Vote on the best constitution.

What does it mean to be free? Hold a Freedom Day at your school or classroom. Learn about celebrations of freedom across time and cultures. Write an essay, poem, or song lyrics; create a sculpture, drawing, or collage; or improvise a dance or a play showing what freedom means to you.

Margaret Peterson Haddix is the author of many critically and popularly acclaimed teen and middle-grade novels, all published by S&S. A graduate of Miami University (of Ohio), she worked for several years as a reporter for The Indianapolis News. She also taught at the Danville (Illinois) Area Community College. She lives with her family in Columbus, Ohio.

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Interviews & Essays

An Interview with Margaret Peterson Haddix

What inspired you to create the Shadow Children series?

MPH: I first started thinking about the whole scenario when my husband and I were trying to decide whether or not to have a third child. We discussed the issue of overpopulation, and how that should affect our decision. In frustration one night I thought, "Well, if overpopulation were that bad of a problem, there'd be a law that nobody could have more than two children." My next thought was, "Wow. What if there were a law like that?"

By any chance, are you a third child? Do you have more than two children?

MPH: No to both questions. I'm a second child, out of four. And I have only two children, though there are usually several of my kids' friends hanging around the house so it often seems like I have more.

When you wrote the first book, Among the Hidden, did you envision it would be the first in a series?

MPH: Not at all. I intended it to be a stand-alone book, and for a long time I resisted all suggestions that I continue the story. Then I got the image in my head of Luke lying in bed at night in a strange place, surrounded by strangers, and whispering his real name to himself in a desperate attempt to hold on to his real identity. That became the opening scene of Among the Impostors and the beginning of the rest of the series.

Each of the books has been so different, yet based on the same themes. How are you able to keep the series fresh?

MPH: I think it's helped to switch between main characters, so everything isn't always from Luke's perspective. And, although I didn't plan this from the beginning, the situations in the books keep changing, with the shift in the government and more restrictive rules. My characters are becoming more desperate, with good reason.

Your books all offer so many twists and turns that they are real page-turners, yet all of the angles come together. How are you able to keep everything straight as you write these books?

MPH: Well, I'm not always able to keep it all straight the first time through. Sometimes I write myself into corners and struggle to find a way out. Revision is definitely helpful.

You don't specify the setting for the books. Is this meant to suggest that this type of totalitarian government can take place anywhere in the world, at any time?

MPH: I don't want to sound like that much of an alarmist, although it amazes me how ordinary, otherwise sane and supposedly even good people accepted dictators like Hitler in the past. I did consider, early on, stating outright that these books take place in the United States in some not-so-distant future, after droughts and famines and a drastic change in the government. But explaining all of that would have been an immense interruption in the story. And I thought a lot of people would dismiss such a possibility out of hand, and then dismiss the entire series as implausible. So I left the setting as some vague, fictional place in some vague, fictional future, with hopes that this would make readers think for themselves about whether such a shift would be possible here.

How much do current events affect your plot choices for the series?

MPH: The first three books were not affected at all by current events. Instead, while I was planning for them, I did a lot of historical research: I read about famines in the past; I read about the difficulties Jewish children faced coming out of hiding after World War II; I read about the different resistance movements that sprang up to fight the Nazis throughout Europe; I read about the Soviet Union under Stalin; I thought about my father's stories about growing up during the Depression and my own fascination with some world events of the 1980s, particularly Tiananmen Square and the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe. I thought I was drawing on tragedies and hopes of the past in order to imagine children fighting a dismal future that I didn't believe would really happen.

My perspective changed after September 11. I had just begun writing Among the Barons in the fall of 2001, and for a few weeks after the terrorist attacks I felt it was impossible to continue. It seemed wrong to write about opposing the government -- any government. I knew Oscar was going to carry out some form of sabotage, and it made me sick to think about writing that. When I finally returned to Barons, it became a very different book than it would have been if I'd finished it September 10, 2001. Luke's confusion and dread mirrored a lot of what I was feeling in real life.

Among the Brave and Among the Enemy have been less connected to current events, but there are certainly overtones. In the Shadow Children world, people gave up all their freedom for food; our country is currently struggling with the question of how much freedom we can or should give up for security. In Brave and Enemy, Trey and Matthew and Matthias put their lives on the line trying to protect or save other people; soldiers and firefighters and police officers made and continue to make similar choices.

I really wish we were living in safer, happier times, and I could base the books solely on my own imagination and history. But seeing all the connections to reality does make me more thoughtful and careful about what I write.

The Shadow Children long to live freely, yet have been conditioned to fear the outside world. Do you feel that readers can relate to this feeling of fear and powerlessness? Why?

MPH: Yes. We live in frightening times, and it's hard to know what to do. I think a lot of people feel powerless right now. Also, on a less dramatic scale, I think most teens and preteens can relate to wanting to be in control of their own lives but being afraid of all the responsibility. That's part of growing up.

It's fascinating how minor characters in earlier books become the protagonists of later books. Did you plan this when you began writing the series?

MPH: When I agreed to do more books after Among the Hidden, I expected to tell about numerous characters besides Luke. But I didn't really plan the interconnections -- my original thought was that I'd skip from one character to another, in vastly different circumstances. I think I was seeing the series as several related stand-alone books, rather than an actual series. But then after Among the Impostors, it was like Nina said to me, "Hey, I've got a story, too. Want to hear it?" In retrospect, it makes sense to me that the minor characters grow into main characters in subsequent books. With practically every book I've ever written, I've known more about the minor characters than I can fit into the book. So it's been a joy to get to expand on some of those characters in other books.

The Shadow Children series is hugely popular with middle grade and teen readers. What are the most common questions that kids ask you about the books?

MPH: A lot of kids ask where the books take place, and whether I think the events in the books will really happen. They ask how I got the idea for the series, and whether I know about the one-child policy in China. One of the most poignant questions anyone ever asked me came from a boy who wanted to know where the Population Police are because, he said, "I don't want to go there." And I thought, okay, maybe he doesn't quite understand the difference between fiction and non-fiction, but he does get the bigger point. None of us should ever want to go to those kinds of restrictions, that kind of a police state.

Do you hope to send any particular message or moral when writing these books?

MPH: My primary goal is to tell a good story -- I can't think of much that turns off kids faster than books that are overly didactic or moralistic. But I'm always glad when kids tell me these books have made them think about freedom and courage and personal choices and sacrificing for others.

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Reading Group Guide

ABOUT THE BOOKS

Imagine living in the shadows, hiding your existence from almost everyone in the world. This is the plight of Jen, Trey, Nina, and all other third-born children. With their nation plagued by drought and food shortages, their government has made it illegal for families to have more than two children. Yet thousands of thirds exist without identification cards or rights of any kind. As these shadow children begin to discover and communicate with each other, their worldviews broaden. They begin to wonder why their government claims that they are the cause of all of their nation's ills, and they question the worth of their leaders themselves. Fearfully, unwittingly, or angrily, these secret children emerge from the shadows to fight for change.

The seven Shadow Children novels are told from the viewpoints of Luke, the beloved third son of a rural family; Matthias, the abandoned urban orphan raised by elderly moralist Samuel; and other third children. Their narratives offer readers differing perspectives on the compelling questions explored in the series. Should the government have the right to dictate the size of families or other aspects of how people choose to live their lives? In an age of televised news, how can one be certain what is really happening in the world and what is illusion — who is telling the truth and who isn't? Can individual actions truly affect the future of a nation? And, ultimately, what does it mean to live in freedom?

DISCUSSION TOPICS

Why do you think some families decided to have third children despite their society's desperate circumstances and strict laws? Do you think that the benefits of having another child would outweigh the sacrifices that must be made? Why or why not?

Each third child comes from a different background and type of hiding place. How are these children treated by the people who care for them and hide them? How do they feel about their circumstances? How do these feelings affect their actions?

How does the government enforce its rules? Do you think its plan for dealing with the low food supply is a good one? Is it justified? Must governments limit individual freedoms to protect their citizens as a group? Is this the case in your own country?

To come out of hiding, shadow children must assume false identities. How would you feel if you had to live under an assumed name, denying your relationship to your family? Which shadow child's feelings about this situation are most like your own and why?

Are the shadow children in more danger when they are hidden or when they venture out into the larger, more complicated world? In what ways do you think this would be a difficult transition to make? Would you feel safer or less safe out in the world?

Shadow children are often uncertain whether people are their friends or their enemies. Cite examples when third children question the loyalties of Mr. Talbot, Smits, Oscar, and even members of the Population Police Force. Is trust as difficult in your world?

A critical challenge faced by each shadow child is the sense that one individual cannot make a difference. When do Luke, Nina, Trey, and Matthias express this sense? Are they correct? What is the relationship between this feeling and the leadership roles these children ultimately take on?

How do different characters contribute to the fight for the freedom of the shadow children? How effective is Jen's rally? Does Luke help the cause when he joins the Grant family of Barons? Can Trey's fear be a type of courage? How do Mr. and Mrs. Talbot, Mr. Hendricks, and even Philip Twinings help the fight?

It becomes increasingly clear that the government is misinforming its citizens. What lies are told on the public television channels? How is the information on the Baron channels different? What roles do television and the Internet play in the novels?

Why do you think the government is, in a sense, framing the shadow children for the nation's problems? Whom do you think the starving population would be angry with if they did not have the shadow children to blame for their hunger?

In what ways does hunger affect different characters and their actions? If your family were hungry, would you have joined the Population Police? Why or why not?

When Aldous Krakenaur and the Population Police are defeated in the final book, are the third children truly safe? What does Luke do to expose Oscar? Why does Nina feel that only a third child could have stopped Oscar?

What kind of government do you think — or hope — the shadow children will help to create? How does Luke imagine the future? Do you think it will be perfect? Do you think it will be better? Explain your answer.

QUOTATIONS TO DISCUSS

Among the Hidden begins with Luke musing: "I will never be allowed outside again. Maybe never again as long as I live." What might you do if you were facing your final moments outside? How does this passage affect your understanding of the series?

Jen tries to persuade Luke to join the rally, saying, "You've got to come, Luke, or you'll hate yourself the rest of your life. When you don't have to hide anymore, even years from now, there'll always be some small part of you whispering, 'I don't deserve this. I didn't fight for it. I'm not worth it.' But you are, Luke, you are." List three ways Jen's words are important. How is Jen, who dies, a key character throughout the series? Compare and contrast the characters of Jen and Samuel as moral thinkers and leaders.

Near the end of Among the Impostors, Mr. Hendricks explains that, "The Population Police can lie too...It suits the government's purposes to say they are arresting third children rather than traitors." Why might this be better for the government's purposes? Are third children the real cause of the nation's troubles?

Among the Betrayed opens with Nina's thought that "...like the bogeyman and the Big Bad Wolf and the Wicked Witch and the creep-show monster, the Population Police belonged in stories and nightmares, not real life." What makes these rebellious thoughts? What makes these brave thoughts?

In Chapter 29 of Among the Barons, "Luke remembered a quote from one of his history books: 'The king is dead, long live the king.'" How do Luke's experiences help him understand these words spoken upon the death of France's Kings? Is the transfer of power in Luke's world really this clear? How might this quote be understood in terms of the way leadership changes hands in your country?

In Chapter 21 of Among the Brave, Luke's brother, Mark, complements Trey on being braver than him. As Trey Responds, he realizes, "People are brave in different ways." Explain this quote in terms of the different types of bravery depicted in the series.

In Chapter 19 of Among the Enemy, Matthias wonders why he could save a Population Police officer, then fight against him. "It had to do with Samuel telling him, over and over again, 'Killing is wrong.' Even...back in the cabin, Matthias hadn't wanted to be an accomplice to any more murder." How does the memory of Samuel affect Matthias's thoughts and actions? How do Samuel's words affect your understanding of the relationship between third children and their government?

At the end of Chapter 8 in Among the Free, Luke asks a boy about his loyalties. "'Which side am I on?' [the boy] repeated. 'What do you think? Whatever side feeds me — that's the one for me.'" Luke later muses, "Shouldn't the enemies of my enemies be my friends?" Discuss loyalty in terms of these two quotations. Could you ever be driven to think like the hungry boy? Why or why not? How would you respond to Luke's circular question about the enemies of his enemies?

WRITING AND RESEARCH ACTIVITIES

Hiding

The premise of the Shadow Children series is that third children must live in hiding, pretending not to exist. Imagine you are a third child. Write three to five journal entries describing your life, how you feel about it, and your dreams, if any, for the future.

Margaret Peterson Haddix calls these novels the "Shadow Children" series. What other words, such as hidden or forbidden, describe third children? Look up "shadow" in the dictionary. Based on these exercises, write a short essay explaining why "shadow" is, or is not, the best word to use in the series title. If not, what series title would you suggest?

Make a "top ten" list of reasons people join the Population Police. Then, in the character of one of those of people, write a speech explaining to the Population Police why you have come to join them. Read your speech aloud to classmates.

In the final book, Luke balks at being interviewed on camera, stating that if he is free then he has the right to say nothing. Why does Luke say this? Role-play this scene, having one classmate act as the interviewer while others play liberated citizens. You may also want to role-play the scene in which citizens begin to testify against third children once again. Discuss ways in which these role-plays are similar and/or different.

Population

The world's six billionth child was born in 1999, and our population continues to grow. A growing population poses risks to the planet. Imagine you have just been told that you are child number six billion. Write a journal entry describing how you feel about this fact.

The world's three most populous countries are China, India, and the United States. Research how population growth has been handled in one of these countries. Compare and contrast the different population changes and policies with the research of other classmates or friends. Have the policies been successful? What positive and negative effects might these policies have in the future? (Hint: Excellent data is available on the Population Reference Bureau website: www.prb.org.)

Food and Hunger

Luke's family lives on a farm, and he is very interested in gardening and hydroponics, the growing of plants in a nutrient-rich water rather than soil. Learn more about these disciplines by trying to grow some vegetables of your own or trying your hand at hydroponics.

The people of the Shadow Children world sometimes act against their moral senses because they are starving. What does it mean to be hungry? Write a paragraph describing how your stomach, limbs, and mind feel when you have missed a meal. Compare this to an encyclopedia definition of starvation. Based on these observations and facts, write a defense of the starving people's bad acts.

How do we deal with hunger and famine in our modern world? Research the policies that different countries have for dealing with hunger both at home and abroad. Stage a debate, with each person advocating a different approach, and see if you can reach a consensus about which methods are the most effective.

Governments and Control

Are these novels about a strong government preventing famine through limiting population? Or are they about a failing government attempting to keep control despite the famine by blaming third children for the entire population's hunger? Write a paragraph explaining which of the above sentences best describes the crisis of the Shadow Children series and why.

Research the population control efforts of the Chinese government, the vilification of the Jewish people by the Nazis in World War II, or the racial hierarchy established between the Hutu and Tutsi people in Rwanda. Present an informative poster based on your research to friends and classmates. Discuss the ways in which each of these governments resembles the actions of the Shadow Children government. Then, if desired, write a paragraph stating which real-life situation you think is most similar to the series and why.

To promote the idea that third children are villains, the government feeds the population propaganda through television and posters. Find the dictionary definition of propaganda. Look for examples of propaganda in the novels. Then create your own propaganda poster defending or blaming third children for the troubles of their nation.

Luke and his friends ultimately have the opportunity to help create a new government. With classmates or friends, brainstorm a list of rules, regulations, and freedoms for the new government you would create for the Shadow Children. Or you and your classmates can each draft a new constitution for the Shadow Children to present to your class. Vote on the best constitution.

What does it mean to be free? Hold a Freedom Day at your school or classroom. Learn about celebrations of freedom across time and cultures. Write an essay, poem, or song lyrics; create a sculpture, drawing, or collage; or improvise a dance or a play showing what freedom means to you.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 143 )
Rating Distribution

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 144 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 2, 2012

    Among the Brave

    This book is one of the most interesting in the series. It talks about children that have been in hiding for all their lives but for the first time they step out into the unknown and have friends. Trey who has been afraid of the outside world for so long has to go on a mission to save his friends from being executed. He goes through grouling situations in heating ducts, dark streets enemy bases, and on the road for so long. Find out more by watching this heart breaking yet tearful and touching series today.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 5, 2012

    Impressively good book

    I remeber reading this series for the first time in elementary school and it was one of my favorites. The element of suspense is great and i really liked how the author wrote from treys point of view. You can see him change and assume responsibilty while trying to deal with his fear. I feel like i am truly part of the story. One of the best dystopian series of all time.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 17, 2012

    Among the Barons is deemingly amazing!!!

    An awesome book filled with suspense and undescribable action. One things's for sure, you've gotta be a fast-paced reader to read this book

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2011

    Love it!!!!!

    I just started reading it 2 hours ago and have not put it down. Very intriginng and AWESOME.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2012

    AWESOME!!!!!

    Best book ever!!

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 29, 2011

    Great!!!

    This book is great

    2 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 20, 2010

    Good Book

    head of the Population Police has taken over the government, and executions are common. Trey went to Mr. Talbot's home seeking help to rescue Luke and his other third born friends just as he is taken away in handcuffs. Desperate, he teams up with Luke's older, more reckless brother, Mark, to try to find the others. Mark is caught and Trey enlists in the Population Police, his only hope of freeing him. To escape, the boys make a deal with a resistance member disguised as a guard to rescue a prisoner from another torture camp. The prisoner turns out to be none other than Mr. Talbot, who headed the resistance movement. Mark and Trey are able to rescue their friends, but are unable to help the guard who helped them. The adults are ready to give up but the third born children vow to keep up the fight.
    Some positives of this book are, that it has tons of suspense, it will also make you want to read more and more to see what happens. That means you won't have trouble reading it and it wont bore you. This book is about how third children are illegal in the U.S and the third children that are in exile are trying to change that. The main characters in this novel are Trey, Nina, Lee, Jen, Mark, Luke, Matt, John, Mr. Talbot, Mrs. Talbot, and Joe. This book takes place in the united states in a time that has never happened before and hopefully will not happen in the future where third children are not allowed. This is an example of a little of the dialogue:
    Mrs. Talbot: "you're just a little boy, aren't you?"
    Mrs. Talbot: "all the thirds-so naïve. So sheltered. Don't you know? The only way they're going to release George is in a coffin."
    Trey: "no they aren't."
    Trey: "you can rescue him. I'll-I'll help."
    This book also has some negatives. One is that it can be confusing on where and what's happening. Another reason is that it has some hard vocabulary that can get you mixed up. The last reason is that there are a lot of scenes and settings in this novel, so you can get confused. The writing style of Margaret Peterson Haddix was with good length sentences that varied. The author also used third person narration for the novel.
    I would recommend this novel to anyone who likes suspense, mystery, or action novels. This is because this novel has a lot of all of that. The novel would be enjoyable to pretty much all readers but I am just recommending it to some. If you have read this book/think you'll like it, then I would also recommend all the other books in this series, such as Among the Hidden, Among the Imposters, Among the Free, etc. this is my review of the novel, Among the Brave.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 23, 2013

    A++++-+

    A++++-+

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 10, 2013

    Abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz??????

    This was definitely my favorite book out of all of them READ IT!!!!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 9, 2012

    Among the brave

    U peeps r gonna luv this book. It is very suspenseful and adventurous.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 25, 2012

    Love it

    I love all the books in this series and i cannot wait to start this book

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 30, 2011

    amazing

    this book was so good! this series is really absorbing!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 17, 2011

    IF U LIKE SHADOW CHILDREN PUT YOUR HANDS UP!!! ;}

    Trey overcomes alot of obsacles and instead of letting his fear overcome him he fights back and his bravery hits him. You here more from Lukes brother Mark and Smits has just a tiny say in this. And i found at the end that the inspiring speech Trey gave may just help shadow children everywhere.Good book and i recomend it to anybody looking for adventures and to anybody trying to overcome great fears. Trey is a true role model. :,)

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 16, 2011

    awesome

    this book was great!!! Yiu find a lot more about Trey 2.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 12, 2009

    A Little Difficult to Understand

    I have to admit, I love the Shadow Children books, so when I got to this one, I was a tad dissappointed. I stopped reading the series about halfway through this book. For me, it was a little slow and hard to understand at times. The rest of the series was written very straight-forward. However, I feel that this book was unique. It has some ups and downs to it. I encourage readers to finish this series and not stop like I did after this book. If you don't understand it, try to ask a friend or someone who has read the book for help like I did.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 15, 2009

    Very good Book

    This book, Among the Brave, is by far the best book in the shadow children series that I have read so far. I found myself many times predicting what I thought would happen and then finding it being completely wrong. For instance when they were driving away from the population police headquarters and mark was still in the cage, they were talking about whether or not they believed the guard and I had thought that after that they would not have gone and picked up the guard's friend or at least attempted to. I also liked the fact that the author made Trey always think of himself as being cowardice, when he was actually extremely brave. The only part of the book that I would have changed is the part where the mob attacked their truck. It seemed a little corny that these people who are starving could flip a car over twice. Although that part was kind of corny, I liked how the author used it as a way to free Mark and yet keep him from his full athletic ability.
    -Brandon M

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 9, 2006

    The brave will die and be remembered but the cowardly will die and be forgotten

    Among the Brave is a great book to read. It has mystery, deception, and action. It starts out with Trey, one of the kids from the previous books, with papers he must deliver to Mr. Talbolt but the thing is Trey has Agro-phobia and hates even looking outside let alone being there and when a secret organization called the population police come and take Mr. Talbolt away its up trey to get him back . With the help of Matthew Garner, Luke Garner¿s oldest brother, will they succeed or fail? I liked this book very much it shows that even if you think you can¿t do something if you never give up you can accomplish anything. It had a really solid storyline and really isn¿t confusing at all. It is pretty slow at the beginning but aren¿t all books? I couldn¿t really relate to anyone in the book. But I know how it feels to think you¿ve tried everything but at the last minute you find something that renews your hope. This is book five in a series of seven called the shadow children series. I really suggest you read the first four books before you read this one though because it could get confusing. I think that this book would entertain any age group from seventh grade on up

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 25, 2014

    Awesome

    I've read the whole series it gets better every time this is a book I can somewat relate

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 19, 2014

    EMERGENCY LOOK AT THIS NOW

    hi!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 4, 2013

    Oh My GIZZLES!

    This series is so freakin amazing!!! Thank you so much margaret peterson haddix! It tells you the lives of people in the past. And i also agree with the person above that he is hot! Apparently they changed the cover since i read this series which was actually a few years ago! Ever since my totes cool teacher gave it to us to read! I love you now so so much! Anyways back to the cover! It looks really cool now i gotta admit but the covers on all the books were always awesome! Again thank you margaret peterson haddix for being such an amazing author and for making this series happen! Xoxo to all!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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