This is one game of capture the flag with real, and dangerous, consequences. Total strangers Anna, Jose, and Henry meet while snowed in at a Washington DC airport after all three have been at a Smithsonian gala the night before. Actually, everyone from the Smithsonian gala is snowed in at the airport, including an international orchestra, presidential hopeful, and evil art thieves. After the gala, someone stole the American flag that inspired The Star-Spangled Banner and Anna feels like it's her mission to get it back. Together, Anna, Jose, and Henry discover that they are all related to the Silver Jaguars, an ancient group that looks after the world's art and treasures, so they start to hunt down the flag and the thieves. Daring, dangerous, and delightful, Capture the Flag is perfect for fans of Chasing Vermeer or 39 Clues and also for readers that are not quite ready for Alex Rider or Heist Society.
I picked Capture the Flag out of my Goodreads To-Read list because I wanted an adventure book, along the lines of The Red Pyramid. This mostly satisfied that craving. Anna, Jose, and Henry work very well together and each have their own strengths. Anna, being a budding journalist, is imaginative and detail-oriented, so she notices small clues and hints. Jose, being the reader, brings a wealth of knowledge to the hunt, and he can also inspire bravery in the other kids. Henry is a constant gamer, so his knowledge of driver games comes in quite handy when stealing an airport baggage cart.
Much like the 39 Clues, this book, and the subsequent series, focuses on a stolen artifact that will need to be recovered by the Silver Jaguars, but there is a splinter group, the Serpentine Princes, that is determined to continue stealing treasures. Each member of the Silver Jaguars is descended from an artist or historical figure. This series does have two advantages that I can see over 39 Clues, one is consistency and the other a small cast of characters. Since the 39 Clues books are written by multiple authors, the character's dialogue and general tone of each book can be maddeningly inconsistent. Also, with so many different sectors of the Cahills, and now Vespers, the cast of characters is too large to accurately remember. But this is perfect, small cast, one author, great for young readers and without all of the cards and hoopla surrounding 39 Clues.
In my opinion, Capture the Flag is an all around accessible book and would make a great classroom read-aloud. It is exciting, funny, and relatable. Plus, for all of those overrun librarians out there, it's a middle grade novel, so you can read this in one day and feel totally satisfied. I'm starting to love middle grade books again!