Eleven by Patricia Reilly Giff

Snooping for birthday presents, almost eleven-year old Sam Bell stumbles upon the mystery that is every child’s secret nightmare. A locked box and a yellowed newspaper clipping, with a picture of Sam, tell him that his life isn’t what it seems. The younger Sam in the photograph is identified as Sam Bell. Sam has always had trouble reading, so the only other word he can decipher is “missing”.

Sam is a very likable character, and I was immediately drawn into his story. He struggles with school, specifically with reading, but he is talented in woodworking and design. The mystery of who he is and why he is labeled as missing in the newspaper article. While this is not an edge of your seat mystery, it is full of suspense and I kept turning the pages, hoping to learn who Sam really was!

I loved Pictures of Hollis Woods and Lily’s Crossing so this was a natural choice. I wasn’t sure how she would pull out a mystery when I was most familiar with her realistic and historical fiction. Needless to say, she did a great job!

I thoroughly enjoyed the story and can’t wait to recommend it to my students. I have a lot of mystery lovers in my class and sometimes it is a struggle to find appropriate middle-grade mysteries for them. Too often, the mysteries I find are too young or too old, involving characters and situations that my students just can not connect with.  Eleven is perfect and fulfills a great need in my classroom library. Hopefully, my students will enjoy it just as much as I did!

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