Friday, September 21, 2012

Key to the Past: The Whites of Their Eyes (Benjamin Pratt and the Keepers of the School) by Andrew Clements

Robert held up his index finger. "Important tactical rule: always plan for mistakes and malfunctions--it's called redundancy."

He took another bite of cheeseburger and kept talking. "When you consider a weapon design, you also have to consider your enemy. In this case, we've got Lyman the Spyman--except he can't just hang around the school spying all day. To maintain his cover, he has to actually be the janitor. So, that's his weakness--as you already know. And really, in today's action, I was sort of copying what Ben did."

Ben nodded wisely. It was nice to have his work praised by an expert

"Okay, okay," Jill said. "Let's hear about this fake puke of yours."

A pair of elderly women in the next booth swiveled their heads and stared at Jill disapprovingly.

In the third book in the popular Keepers of the School series, The Whites of Their Eyes (Benjamin Pratt and the Keepers of the School) (Atheneum Books, 2012), with time running out, Benjamin Pratt and his friend Jill decide to risk taking on a third co-conspirator, the "brain" Robert Gerritt, to help them defeat the corporation and its undercover agent, Lyman, masquerading as the new school janitor, who plan to tear down the historic Duncan Oakes School and build a mega-theme park, Tall Ships Ahoy, on the site. Ben had uncovered a secret society of generations of students, called The Keepers of the School, sworn to protect and perpetuate the school. Now, with only three weeks before the wrecking ball destroys the historic building, the two Keepers decide to swear in Robert to help them outwit the former secret agent Lyman, now employed by the Tall Ships Ahoy Corporation to foil their efforts.

In the introductory volume of the series (see my review here) Ben and Jill have followed Duncan Oakes' cryptic messages and uncovered a codicil in his will which could possibly defeat the demolition plan, but they need more facts to use as firepower, and the search for more concealed clues is foiled by "Lyman the Spyman" who seems to always be one step ahead of them. With Robert's help, the three manage to defeat Lyman's hidden sensors and enter the school for a midnight search which uncovers a banister which, when turned, reveals a secret panel which opens into a concealed room which was evidently used as a station on the Underground Railroad.

The three Keepers hope this this historic find will help win over public opinion to preserve the Oakes School, but when the kids emerge from their hidden room, they find themselves facing a fierce guard dog which Lyman has set loose in the schools halls, and again they must outwit Lyman to make their escape with proof of their new find.

Andrew Clements' third book in the series does not disappoint middle readers in its combination of suspense, danger, and a tantalizing historical mystery with local political ramifications. Clements, a master of elementary fiction, is a fine storyteller who offers a fast-paced page turner with deeper ethical ramifications. Fans of the first book and its sequel, Fear Itself, will want to get their hands on this latest installment in the series.

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