When Ted and his older sister, Kat, get a free ticket from a stranger to ride the London Eye, the huge observation wheel, they give it to their visiting thirteen-year-old cousin, Salim. They track his capsule as the wheel makes it orbit, but when it lands and the passengers disembark, Salim is not there. He's disappeared. As a missing persons mystery, this is an intriguing one. How could someone disappear from a sealed pod? What makes it utterly compelling, though, is the narrator, Ted. He plans to be a meteorologist when he grows up, and he follows every weather pattern, studying each system, and noting the variables. He has a hard time understanding human emotions and everyday language with all its strange idioms. Ted knows his brain is wired differently from other kids and that his doctors describe him as "at the high functioning end of the spectrum." You'll recognize him as a boy with Asperger's Syndrome. Ted might be "a weirdo," as his disdainful big sister puts it, but his obsessive analysis of every clue helps him and Kat work out what has happened to Salim.
If you're using the book as a read-aloud, and it’s riveting, you’ll want to look up the London Eye online so your kids will have an idea of just how extraordinary it is. Go to www.londoneye.com for pictures and information. Ted talks about the London subway map as being topological (simplified and not to scale) as opposed to topographical, so you'll want to take a look and maybe plot out the places he goes in London with a map of the Underground. You can download one from the Transport for London website at www.tfl.gov.uk. Click on GETTING AROUND to find and download a PDF to print out and take a vicarious tour of the city.
Reviewed by JF.
THEMES: BROTHERS AND SISTERS. ENGLAND. MYSTERY AND DETECTIVE STORIES. PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES.
David Fickling Books, 2008
Suggested Ages: 10 and Up