By Benedict Carey
Amulet Books, $6.95, 202 pages
Mix together a puzzle book and a mysterious adventure story and the result is Island of the Unknowns by Benedict Carey. Lady Di Smith and Tom Jones live on a small island that houses hundreds of beat up mobile homes, a power plant, and not much else. Nothing exciting ever happens, until one summer when people start vanishing, including their favorite neighbor Mrs. Clarke. The two kids must solve the mystery using an unexpected method: math! It seems that Mrs. Clarke left the kids clues around the island in the form of math problems. As readers follow the adventure, they too can solve the clues to find out how the story will proceed. Concepts covered include mapmaking, using a compass, x and y axis, slope, pi, ocean tide tables, the Pythagorean Theorem, cracking passwords, and more. For kids indifferent to math, the story alone is a suspenseful mystery (and maybe some of the characters’ excitement for math might rub off on the reader!). Upper elementary and middle school teachers can easily work this book into their lesson plans. More fun can be found in the Activity Guide located at the end of the story where the author offers more interesting math challenges.
Reviewed by Kathryn Franklin
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