RESCUE, by Jennifer A. Nielsen, Scholastic Press, March 2, 2021, Hardcover, $17.99 (ages 8-12)
If you’re looking for fantastic middle-grade adventure, look no further than Jennifer A. Nielsen. Her latest novel, Rescue, follows a girl who finds herself on the wrong side of the Nazis as she works with the French resistance.
Six hundred and fifty-seven days ago, Meg Kenyon’s father left their home in France to fight for the Allies in World War II, and that was the last time Meg saw him. Recently, she heard he was being held prisoner by the Nazis, a terrible sentence from which Meg fears he’ll never return. All she has left of him are the codes he placed in a jar for her to decipher, an affectionate game the two of them shared. But the codes are running low, and soon there’ll be nothing left of Papa for Meg to hold on to at all.
Suddenly, an impossible chance to save her father falls into Meg’s lap. After following a trail of blood in the snow, Meggie finds an injured British spy hiding in her grandmother’s barn. Captain Stewart tells her that a family of German refugees must be guided across Nazi-occupied France to neutral Spain, whereupon one of them has promised to free Meg’s father. Captain Stewart was meant to take that family on their journey, but too injured to complete the task himself, he offers it to Meg, along with a final code from Papa to help complete the mission — perhaps the most important, and most difficult, riddle she’s received yet.
As the Nazis flood Meg’s village in fierce pursuit, she accepts the duty and begins the trek across France. Leading strangers through treacherous territory, Meg faces danger and uncertainty at every turn, all the while struggling to crack her father’s code. The message, as she unravels it, reveals secrets costly enough to risk the mission and even her own life. Can Meg solve the puzzle, rescue the family, and save her father? —Synopsis provided by Scholastic Press
Jennifer has become a go-to author for recommendations, and Rescue is no different. This fast-moving novel is engrossing from beginning to end.
Rescue stands out from other novels in its genre in a number of ways. The most intriguing — the use of codes. Not only are the codes used, but Meg has to decode them herself. And the way Jennifer presents them, allows the reader to work on them as well.
Also of note is the suspense Jennifer creates among the main players. Meg quickly learns that trust is not easily earned, nor should it be. Everyone is hiding something, and as the plot unfolds, the danger grows.
Meg is a smart, lively girl who makes mistakes and quickly learns from them. Her adventure is nail-biting to the final chapter.
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