A number of homeschool moms may be familiar with Max Elliot Anderson
of the Tweener Press Adventure series. He specializes in creating
action-adventure stories for reluctant readers--especially for
boys ages 8-12. There is a definite lack of good, interesting,
Christian books for boys who find reading difficult, and sadly,
most of Anderson's Tweener Press adventures appear to be out of
print. But there is good news. Mr. Anderson has launched a new
title, When the Lights Go Out. This 165-page novel might
be just the ticket for your struggling reader: a nice-sized font,
plenty of white space, and an easy-to-follow storyline.
Twelve-year-old Peyton Aldrich is your ordinary military kid.
He's used to living on army bases all over the country, and he
knows better than to ask his father, Colonel Aldrich, about his
job. It's classified and very "top secret." Now, Peyton and his
family are stationed on a new base that is under Colonel Aldrich's
command. Peyton has not lived there long, but he knows one thing:
Nothing ever happens on this base out in the middle of nowhere.
He wonders if he'll even find any friends his own age. Happily,
two boys--Dave and Gill--befriend Peyton, and together they decide
to train to be Army Rangers and find a mission of their own to
break up the boredom of this "nowhere" base. However, the boys
are not expecting that a real mission will come their
way! It shatters Peyton's idea that nothing ever happens and puts
the boys in more danger than they ever imagined. When Peyton, who
idolizes his father, tries to tell his dad what they've discovered,
he can't talk to him. He's not home. The base is on sudden alert.
It's now up to the three young "rangers" to put into practice their
daring plan to expose a terrorist plot.
I was pleasantly surprised to see how the story ended. While reading
it, I wondered if there might be a believability issue (as in .
. . three boys getting involved in a terrorist plot). However,
the author made the boys' mission believable and resolved it well.
When the Lights Go Out is a fast read. The writing is
simple and straightforward, without a lot of depth. Peyton, Gill,
and Dave are good friends, with the occasional believable spat,
which is soon resolved. Much of the book focuses on the boys' ranger
training, so if your children like that concept, they'll get a
few fun ideas to try out in the backyard. Peyton is the leader
of the trio and a good role model for young readers: respectful
to his parents, nice to his younger sister, and proud of his father's
role in keeping the country safe in the post 9/11 years. Dave's
father is the base chaplain, but that is as far as the story goes
with regards to talking about God and biblical principles. However,
biblical values are shown through the actions of the characters.
When the Lights Go Out would make a great little story
to go along with a unit study about 9/11. It presents the real
threat of terrorism on our own soil without making it too scary
for younger children. Children who are used to reading books with
a lot of depth and character development may find the book a bit
simplistic. However, if they like to read, they'll zip through
this story and probably enjoy it.