Thursday, November 11, 2010

What Do Your Instincts Say?

Today John Walsh appeared on Good Morning, America and lauded the courage of Elizabeth Smart. In court these past few days, Elizabeth has bravely faced down the horrors she endured when kidnapped from her home and held captive as she grew from child to woman. She refuses to be a victim. Her strength is an inspiration.

Also in court was a young detective who came close to rescuing her, but didn’t. He says he is haunted by that. Doubtless, we all wonder if we might have seen a missing child. Or were we just imagining it?

STOLEN CHILDREN by Peg Kehret, Dutton’s Children’s Books, 2008

Have you ever looked at the pictures of the most wanted on the post office wall or the missing child on a milk carton and later the same day convinced yourself that you didn’t really see that person in the 7-11 or making a quick stop at the gas station? Throughout this thriller, the kidnappers and their young charges almost get recognized, but the good, fine citizen, decides no, these things don’t happen to me.

Amy probably thought that, too, when she discovered that the child she is babysitting on short notice and for the first time has disappeared from the nursery. Kendra, the sweet 3 year old who was so easy to tuck in for a nap just a short time ago, couldn’t be missing, really missing. Such a thing wouldn’t happen to Amy. Toddler Kendra must be playing hide and seek in the house.

Except she wasn’t.

Backyard? Pool? Front yard? That’s where Amy found Kendra’s always present friend Tubby, a grubby looking stuffed cat that Kendra talks through. When Kendra wants something, she announces that Tubby wants it. Therein lies the story. If the kidnappers hadn’t gotten upset over Kendra’s stubborn (as only a three year old can be) insistence that she have Tubby, they wouldn’t have returned to her home. Amy wouldn’t have encountered them. They wouldn’t have had to take Amy, too.

When you were babysitting, did you ever think you were fully prepared? Or that your own babysitter could handle any and all emergencies, as long as she could reach you by phone? How confident should you be?

Amy’s babysitting course taught the basics. It didn’t cover what to do when two strangers break in and steal the baby. To her credit, Amy never stops thinking. While keeping Kendra calm and cared for, she looks for opportunities to escape or send clues. She comes close, but she fails. When her world, the one she wants to escape, intersects briefly with the world you and I live in, she sends signals, but we don’t get them. Anything awkward, out of place, strange? Well, we probably imagined it.

How much should we trust our instincts?

Baby sitting courses are a great idea for middle grade students, and so is this book. It’s a suspenseful thriller crafted by an award winning author. Amy’s resourcefulness and her dedication to her young charge will make any baby sitter proud.

While your ten or twelve year old is reading this absorbing page turner, you might want to pay a little more attention to that “missing” picture displayed at the check out.

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