The Seven Keys of Balabad

Paul Haven, Author, Mark Zug, Illustrator , illus. by Mark Zug. Random $16.99 (271p) ISBN 978-0-375-83350-2

Three children encounter kidnappers, a mysterious carpet and a thieves' market in Haven's (Two Hot Dogs with Everything ) entertaining but slight novel. Oliver's father, a newspaper reporter, has moved his family to the tiny Middle Eastern nation of Balabad. Oliver, 12, and his best (and only) friend, Zee, relieve their boredom by visiting a carpet seller, Mr. Haji, who entertains them with stories of Balabad's history. When a series of unusual crimes that begins with the theft of the 500-year-old Sacred Carpet of Agamon culminates in the disappearance of Haji, Oliver and Zee, with the help of a girl named Alamai, set off to find their friend and discover the secrets of Balabad. The brief adventure is exciting but ends too quickly, and with too few opportunities for the protagonists to put their intelligence to use. There's much to like, including smart, realistic characters, a fascinating back story and solid action sequences, but the strong writing doesn't compensate for the structural problems. Illustrations not seen by PW. Ages 8–12. (Jan.)

Reviewed on: 12/15/2008
Release date: 01/01/2009
Paperback - 275 pages - 978-0-375-83351-9
Open Ebook - 158 pages - 978-0-375-89249-3
Library Binding - 275 pages - 978-0-375-93350-9
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