Time is ticking as the countdown to Ben Pratt’s school’s total demolition continues. Ben has been given a handful of clues that could help them save the school, but they are all written in maritime riddles. “After five bells sound, time to sit down.” What the heck does that mean? It’s hard to know where to begin when Ben and Jill don’t even know what they are looking for. All Lyman, the snake posing as the school janitor, needs to know, though, is that they are looking, and that could mean the end of the 30-million-dollar development deal that pays his salary. (Which, by the way, is MUCH larger than what a typical janitor makes.) As Lyman lurks in the shadows—and sometimes not in the shadows—Ben and Jill have to add another to-do to their list of things to accomplish in the next twenty-one days: (1) Figure out the clues left by past Keepers of the School groups, (2) figure out how these clues will help them save the school, and (3) stay one step ahead of Lyman. That’s the mission…which seems, at times, impossible.
The second book in this riveting and mysterious six-book series is as action-packed as the first one, culminating in a faceoff between Ben, Jill, and Lyman. “After five bells sound, time to sit down” makes for a good riddle, but Ben and Jill also knows when it’s time to stand up…for Oakes School and for themselves.
Gr 3-6–Although this book is a satisfying read by itself, the story will make more sense to readers familiar with We the Children (S & S, 2010). Benjamin Pratt and his friend Jill are trying to find the clues that will keep their 200-year-old school from being torn down and replaced by a theme park. Ben goes to the funeral of Mr. Keane, the janitor who died in the first book, where he meets Tom Benton, who held the job before Mr. Keane. The janitor’s widow gives Ben a large set of keys, and he and Jill solve the clue, “after five bells sound, time to sit down” and find a codicil from Duncan Oakes, founder of the school, that might change everything. The current janitor is stalking Ben and Jill and taunts them with the fact that in three weeks the building will be demolished. Expressive pen-and-ink illustrations add detail and excitement to the adventure, including the clues and coins found. Solid writing, likable characters, danger, a seaside setting, and now treasure will make readers eager for the third installment.–Debbie Hoskins, Grand Rapids Public Library, MI
- SLJ Sept 2010