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Monday, September 10, 2012

Robbers, written by Andreas Schroeder and illustrated by Remy Simard. Annick Press, 2012. $12.95 ages 10 and up

"After they had drilled six finger-deep holes into the vault ceiling, they packed them with sticks of dynamite and topped them with blasting caps. Then nine of the dirt-filled sacks were packed directly over the holes to deflect the force of the blast downward. The other eleven were piled up some distance away to shield the trigger man."

Read that one paragraph to a group of intermediate or middle school readers, and you won't see the book again...until they have had their fill of it, and shared it with their friends, and talked about the capers endlessly.

I love books like this that tell real stories of real people and give readers just a hint at the story...enough to get them interested and wanting to know more. There are eight stories and I had some knowledge of only three; I found each one of them intriguing and really appreciate the way that Andreas Schroeder presents them to his audience:

"The problem for many robbers is that when they make a big score, they party, and blow their ill-gotten gains on huge mansions, flashy cars, or luxury yachts. But in order to spend a lot of money, you've got to keep stealing a lot of money. So a thief's life can become a treadmill - and when the police finally come knocking, that treadmill crashes."

He goes on to explore the stories of some of our most notorious robbers. Each caper describes some of the same elements. He talks about the robbers, the target of their attention, the heists they pull, and what follows each robbery. Each is accompanied by graphic illustrations that are often humorous and helpful in explaining the many facets of the jobs pulled. Information boxes are placed at opportune points to add critical pieces and facts about the particular robbery.

The language is accessible and reads like a story...enjoyable while informative:

"Just after midnight on May 14, 1876, three men stood at the corner of Picadilly and Old Bond Street in London, England. A low fog swirled around them, chilly and damp. At that hour, the shops, the sidewalks, and even the streets were deserted. The gas flames in the streetlamps flickered restlessly.
The three men spoke briefly, then headed down old Bond Street. Several blocks along, one of them ducked into an angled doorway that allowed him a clear view of the street ahead. The other two stopped a few steps later in front of an art gallery."

What do you think they had on their minds? If you want to know, you will have to find a copy of this the library, or in your favorite bookstore. You won't be sorry you followed up on it, and neither will your listeners.

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