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Cover image for The secret box
The secret box
First edition.
New York, NY : Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, [2014]
Physical Description:
297 pages ; 22 cm
Series title(s):
Number in series:
bk. 1.
"On her twelfth birthday, Jax Malone receives an odd, unopenable present from an estranged aunt. When Jax and her cousins Ethan and Tyler go on a quest to open the box, they uncover a mystery with magical consequences"-- Provided by publisher.
Reading Level:
Ages 10 up.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 4.3 8.0 164494.


Call Number

On Order



The Secret Box is a Junior Library Guild selection and the first in an irresistible middle grade series that will delight fans of Dan Gutman, Wendy Mass, and Trenton Lee Stewart.

What starts as a fun quest to open a mysterious birthday present quickly turns crazy and dangerous when Jax and her cousin Ethan discover themselves at the center of a special magical legacy. Soon they realize the secret box was not intended as a gift, but as call for help that they alone can answer.

Readers will love the page-turning mystery, hilarious girl and boy narrators, and clever incorporation of mythology--and lingering questions will leave them eager for more.

Reviews 5

School Library Journal Review

Gr 5-8-Jax Malone is a 12-year-old tomboy with a thirst for adventure and an inquisitive mind. Ethan is her younger, quieter, nerdy cousin who is just along for the ride. When a mysterious gift appears on Jax's 12th birthday, Jax's mother quickly tries to hide it. What happens next is a string of events that will leave readers on the edge of their seats. Great Aunt Juniper sent the box, a great aunt Jax didn't even know existed. After a few failed attempts at opening it, Jax and Ethan enlist the help of Ethan's older brother Tyler, a gamer who loves to win at anything, and a wild, crazy and even dangerous road trip adventure begins. Jax and her cousins quickly find out that the box was not really a present after all but a call for help. Ringwald creates a cast of characters that are relatable to any middle-grade child; Jax could be any smart, sassy tween in any school. The chapters are told in alternating voices between Jax and Ethan, using both points of view. Ethan's chapter even starts with fun real facts. This is a great read for reluctant readers or for anyone who loves adventure, mystery, or a touch of magic or who is curious in nature, for, as Jax says. "Curiosity may have killed the cat but I was no cat."-Joanne Albano, Commack Public Library, NY (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publisher's Weekly Review

When Jax's mother confiscates a package sent to Jax on her 12th birthday, Jax is determined to get it back in this charming adventure story. She enlists the help of her cousin Ethan, who is a year older and much more cautious than headstrong, impulsive Jax. He's also tired of being Jax's sidekick. The package turns out to be a mysterious box that can only be opened in one location, but Ethan is less than eager to turn detective and embark on an adventure, especially because it requires the help of his computer genius older brother, Tyler. The mystery deepens when the three learn that the box was sent by an archeologist great aunt none of them knew about, and villains are seeking the box as well. With narration shared by Jax and Ethan, and plenty of humorous moments supplied by cranky Tyler, this is a promising launch to a planned trilogy. Mixing Greek mythology and mystery with gamer lingo and poignant coming-of-age moments, Ringwald delivers a smart balance of comedy, endearing characters, and high-stakes escapades. Ages 8-12. (Feb.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Horn Book Review

Twelve-year-old Jax Malone receives a mysterious birthday package from her estranged great-aunt Juniper: a locked, GPS-encoded box that only opens in one location. With her cousins Ethan and Tyler, Jax works to crack the code while being pursued by obsessive archeologists who want the box's all-powerful contents for themselves. The fast pace, authentic family dynamics, and suspense combine to create a winning adventure. (c) Copyright 2014. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Review

Fresh voices make this story a winner. Jax Malone is bored with her 12th birthday. Her presents are unexciting--"nail polish, a couple of Starbucks cards. Big yawn"--and she is not even interested in a package addressed to her delivered in that day's mail. That is, until her mother whisks it away, forbidding her to open it. Jax can't stand secrets, and with the help of her shy cousin, Ethan, she finds and opens the package. It contains a mystery that Jax and Ethan need help solving, so they trick Ethan's older brother, Tyler, an obnoxious genius computer gamer, into helping. The story is told in first person, in alternating chapters by Jax and Ethan (made easy to follow by a distinct typeface for each). Jax's wry, confident voice juxtaposed against Ethan's insecure, retiring one, along with Tyler's supergeek, out-of-touch arrogance, combine to create many laugh-out-loud moments. Pursuing the mystery carries the three from their New Jersey home to Washington, D.C. Along the way, they elude a villainous couple and search for a rogue great-aunt. As they work together to solve the mystery, the cousins conquer individual fears and forge a bond with one another, learning to respect their differences. Readers will relish this sparkling adventure, which offers plenty of action, humor, age-appropriate danger and mental calisthenics. (Mystery. 9-12)]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

A mysteriously sealed birthday present, family secrets, and a dangerous relic from Greek mythology are the ingredients for this middle-grade series opener. In spite of her mother's efforts to return the intriguing gift, 12-year-old Jax Malone retrieves it, and with cousins Ethan and Tyler, she sets off on a quest to open it that leads them to Washington, D.C., where they meet a dangerous pair of thieving archaeologists and an estranged great-aunt. Though this is mainly the story of Jax's obsession with the box and her curiosity about her anonymous father and previously unknown relative, the first-person narrative alternates among the protagonists: frizzy-haired Jax, the impulsive leader; introverted Ethan, always her sidekick; and his obnoxious video game-making older brother, Tyler. Description and characterization are accomplished through shortcuts, but the action is fast-paced and the suspense is real: Jax doesn't hesitate at burglary, and Mr. and Mrs. Camel have actual guns. Though the story is complete, there are tantalizing loose ends from this equally mysterious pseudonymous author.--Isaacs, Kathleen Copyright 2014 Booklist