HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: The Case of the Vanishing Scroll
Author: J. D. Howard
Cover Illustrator: Robert Adrian Hillman
Publisher: WestBow Press, 2013
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Ages 9-12 and up
Rating: ***** 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Howard, J. D. The Case of the Vanishing Scroll (published in 2013 by WestBow Press, a Division of Thomas Nelson, 1663 Liberty Dr., Bloomington, IN 47403). Eleven year old Sam Dixon lives with his dad and mom, Mark and Carrie, and fifteen year old brother Mike, in Torino, Italy, where the family has moved to do church work. Sam’s best friend is eleven year old Sarah Hale, whose family is also in Torino doing church work. Mike’s best friend is a fifteen year old Italian boy named Antonio. While exploring a nearby cave, Sam finds a mysterious envelope with a necklace and a note written in Greek. When the kids go back to explore the cave further, they notice three men on a nearby estate engaging in some suspicious activities. Then an ancient scroll of the biblical book of Esther vanishes from the local Egyptian Museum and police accuse Sam’s friend Dr. Luca DiGenio of the crime, claiming that he sold the scroll to fund his niece Maria’s operation.
Maria is also Sam’s tutor in Italian, and Sam doesn’t believe the charge against Dr. DiGenio, who works at the museum, so he leads his friends on a mission to discover the truth, and they find themselves in a shadowy world as one clue leads another. In addition, Maria’s boyfriend, Bruno, is acting very strangely. Is there any connection between all these seemingly unrelated events? Who is behind the framing of Dr. DiGenio? Will Sam and the others uncover the facts that will clear his friend? Or will someone find the young people out and get rid of them? Author J. Derrick Howard has worked with youth part-time for twenty years as a mentor, coach, and CASA. His desire is that this book, and ones to follow in a series, will be a fun, wholesome source of reading for kids.
Somewhat reminiscent of the Hardy Boys stories but with an underlying spiritual element that is never “preachy” or obnoxious, The Case of the Vanishing Scroll is a wonderful mystery-adventure book, with plot twists and tangles that will keep the reader turning pages. There is nothing objectionable in the story–no gore, violence, occult, horror, unwholesome thoughts and ideas, or other vile things. And there is a lot to like, such as good character descriptions; a fun-filled, action-packed plot; and a surprise in the end. Pro-family advocates will especially appreciate the relationship between Sam and Mike, with Sam’s obvious admiration of his older brother and Mike’s concern for his younger sibling. Also, it will interest girls, as well as boys, with Sam’s friend Sarah, who is homeschooled. I bought this book, evidently intended as the first in a series of “White Feather Mysteries,” from a homeschooling website.