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Young readers book reviews for ages 8 to 12 years old

*The Secret Shelter* by Sandi LeFaucher - young readers book review



The Secret Shelter
by Sandi LeFaucher
Ages 9-12 144 pages Brown Barn Books September 2004 Paperback    

The Secret Shelter by Sandi LeFaucheur is nothing to get excited about. In it, three kids (along with their teacher, Mr. Schmidt) go back in time. I can't even begin to count the number of books I've read with that basic plot: kids go back in time. Quite often, it's to the same time period as in The Secret Shelter: the Second World War.

Sophie, the narrator, and two of her classmates are told to work together on a group project about World War II. When Marina comes up with the idea of excavating the air raid shelter underneath the front lawn of the school they attend, Sophie is intrigued. Quigs, the third member of the group, also agrees. Supervised by Mr. Schmidt and Sophie's elderly neighbor, Mr. Martin (who attended the school in the 1940s, when the shelter was in use), the three dig to the door of the shelter. To get some good photographs, they're dressed in 1940s clothing, with replicas of ration books, identity cards, and gas masks made by Mr. Schmidt. The teacher's identity, however, is Henry Smith - a German would have him under suspicion in 1940s London.

When they step into the shelter, they expect to take a few pictures, get out, and get a good grade on their projects. When they reopen the door, however, nothing is the same. They've traveled back in time to World War II. They have no homes, no money, nothing. The only person around with any firsthand knowledge of the time, Mr. Martin, mysteriously disappeared in the dark air raid shelter as it traveled through time. They've got to keep it together (and not be arrested as German spies) and figure out how to get back to their own time...if they all even want to.

The plot of this story is overused, but still not bad. If it were terrible, people wouldn't keep using this plot. Even within the category of children's books about time-traveling, though, this book falls short of others. The Secret Shelter is certainly not a terrible book, but, if it interests readers, I'd recommend they check it out at the library and save themselves some money. It's not one most people will feel compelled to re-read.

Sandi LeFaucheur's style of writing can, at times, be rather dull. The book is full of simple statements of actions or feelings of characters. This might make it easier for younger readers, but there are ways to make a book interesting without making it too difficult. Sandi LeFaucheur's story simply doesn't come alive for the reader but is instead told in Sophie's unremarkable voice. The book seems very much like a first novel, and perhaps Sandi LeFaucheur should have waited to seek publication. Nothing about the style of writing or the plot stands out as either particularly good or bad. It is, to put it simply, ordinary. In a world where there are so many extraordinary books, this one will probably never become exceptionally popular.

Still, it takes a great deal of effort to write a novel and have it published. Sandi LeFaucheur is to be admired for that. Since practice supposedly makes perfect, her next book will hopefully stand out much more in originality than The Secret Shelter. Still, if time-travel books are your thing, you might find this one worth your time. It's short (142 pages) and won't take much time to read.

For those interested in learning about life during World War II, this would be a more interesting way to do it than to read through a history book, and it does seem well-researched. Little details such as Mr. Schmidt changing his name to Smith show the care that was put into the story. The characters are fairly well-developed as well. Interestingly, the characters are taken to England in World War II. While there are a good number of such stories, most books about the Second World War focus on the Holocaust

The Secret Shelter, while decent, is not remarkable. It's not a bad book, but it's not one that will be reaching the tops of any bestseller lists anytime soon.
Young readers book reviews for ages 8 to 12 years old

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