Home School Book Review
, July 11, 2011
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Do you remember what happened on Sept. 11, 2001? It’s hard for many of us who are older to realize that most middle-school age children were either too young to understand what was occurring on that date or maybe even weren’t born yet! Twelve-year-old Peyton Aldrich has just moved with his parents and younger sister Kelley to a new home where his father, a colonel in the United States army who tells Peyton that he decided to join the army after what happened on 9/11, has been named commander of an old, out-of-the-way army base. As the book opens, Peyton is home alone during a thunderstorm when the electricity goes off. He says, “Man, I really hate it when the lights go out!” Since Col. Aldrich has top secret clearance, Peyton isn’t supposed to know anything about his dad’s activities, but he accidentally overhears his father talking on the phone to a general about a secret weapon coming to the base.
Peyton and his two new friends, Gill Rutledge, son of the base motor pool sergeant, and Dave Miller, son of the base chaplain, decide to use the old obstacle course outside the base for training to become Army Rangers like his dad. To complete their training, they need a mission. Then one day while visiting Gill’s dad, the three boys overhear some civilian workmen in what sounds like a plot to steal the secret weapon that Peyton had overheard his dad talking about. The men plan to cut all the lights on base off and take the weapon under cover of darkness. Now the friends know what their mission is��"to do what they can to thwart the plot. They track the plotters to a vacant garage and even intercept some of their messages. Their plan is to use generators to shine lights on the base's back gate. But will the terrorists catch the boys? Or will the three be able to stop the plot? And what will the general do to Peyton’s father when he finds out what the boys have done?
Author Max Elliot Anderson grew up as a struggling, reluctant reader, and uses his extensive experience in the production of motion pictures and videos to bring the same visual excitement and heart-pounding action to his adventure and mystery stories written especially for boys. I especially like the way in which Dave tells his friends that every year on Sept. 11, his dad preaches a sermon saying that the devil is like a terrorist whose one mission is to find out where we’re the weakest and attack that place. Gill makes fun of him, but Peyton says that he and his father might be interested. Dedicated “To the memory of 9/11, and the people who lost their lives that day,” When the Lights Go Out is a story for children and their parents, so we never forget 9/11. Tween boys, especially reluctant readers, and even girls too, who like excitement and suspense can do no better than to read a Max Elliot Anderson novel.