Gr 5-9-- Ridley Pearson's riveting novel (Disney, 2008) begins when 14-year-old Steven (Steel) Trapp, his mom, and their dog Cairo ride the Amtrak on a two-day trek to Washington, DC, for the National Science Challenge. Steel's photographic memory turns out to be a curse when he tries to return a briefcase that was left on the train by a mysterious woman, and soon discovers that dangerous criminals with ties to foreign terrorists are behind a plot to rig the national lottery. Steel discovers that the briefcase contains a Polaroid of a frightened woman bound and gagged. Kaileigh, a geeky co-competitor and runaway, teams up with Steel to try to rescue the hostage before the terrorist can murder her. Steel's science project, a scent-sniffing robot, plays a part in both aiding and thwarting the evil plot that would have handed over 45 million dollars of lottery money to foreign terrorists. Although there are some illogical plot elements (Steel never realized that his father was an FBI agent), the story will appeal to middle school students. Narrator William Dufris's flawless characterization commands a wide range of voices--a 14-year-old girl, a pubescent boy whose voice is changing, an agitated governess, a gruff U.S. Marshall, and others. Those who enjoy Anthony Horowitz's Alex Rider spy novels will find this novel intriguing.--Beverly S. Almond, Moore Square Museums Magnet Middle School, Raleigh, NC[Page 65]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
Gr 5-8--After overcoming terrorists in Steel Trapp: The Challenge (Disney Editions, 2008), 14-year-old Steven "Steel" Trapp returns in this second adventure (Hyperion, 2010) by Ridley Pearson. Steel's FBI father has secured him a position at the highly secretive Wynncliff Academy. The teen hopes to escape the "nerd" label which hangs over him because of his astonishing memory skills and is thrilled when his favorite adventurous redhead, Kaileigh, also enrolls. It's not long before the pair realizes that Wynncliff is not your normal East Coast boarding school, but a training ground for future spies. Each student has been recruited because of a unique ability, and Steel and Kaileigh are quickly given their first mission to destroy a ring of pickpockets. Narrator William Dufris delivers a straightforward telling with enough tension and suspense to hold listeners' attention. Pearson is setting the stage for an enjoyable series that will be popular with middle school boys. This volume stands easily on its own and is a great choice for reluctant readers.--Tricia Melgaard, Centennial Middle School, Broken Arrow, OK[Page 53]. Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.