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!

Poetry Friday

I’m in Poetry Friday this week with a poem of my own. I normally choose a poem by a “real poet”, but as I have been encouraging my students to share their poetry, I should do the same. The following poem was inspired by my trip to Tenochtitlan, where I stood at the top of the Pyramid of the Sun- the third largest pyramid in the world.

Time Atop the World

Standing atop the ancient world, stone pyramid beneath my feet.
Surveying the land spread below,
I wonder
who else has stood where I am standing?
Ancient priests?
Victims of sacrifice?
Unknown cultures?
The cool breeze
lightly kisses my skin.
I reach toward the sky
so close.

As far as the eye can see,
pyramids to the left and right.
Below, crowds are no more than small ants,
Flowing down the Avenue of the Dead.
Their voices carry to the top,
and I imagine the crowds
that once passed by this,
ancient temple,
crowds of men
and women
who lived and died
thousands of years ago.

Who will stand here in the future?
What will they see
when they stand atop
the ancient
and modern world,
surveying the land below.

Will they wonder about me?