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Book Club Kits: Capture the Flag

Alamance County Public Libraries offer Book Club Kits for check out to area book clubs. Each kit contains 10 copies of a book and a reading guide.

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Book Summary

Anna, José, and Henry have never met, but they have more in common than they realize. Snowed in together at a chaotic Washington, DC, airport, they encounter a mysterious tattooed man, a flamboyant politician, and a rambunctious poodle named for an ancient king. Even stranger, news stations everywhere have just announced that the famous flag that inspired “The Star-Spangled Banner” has been stolen! Anna, certain that the culprits must be snowed in, too, recruits Henry and José to help find the thieves and bring them to justice. But when accusations start flying, they soon realize there’s even more than a national treasure at stake. And with unexpected enemies lurking around every corner, will Anna, José, and Henry solve the heist before the flag is lost forever?

Discussion Questions

Chapter 1 Why do you think the men who stole the flag were able to succeed?


Chapter 2 If Anna, José, and Henry went to the same school, how likely is it that they’d be friends? Which character is most like you?


Chapter 3 Why do you think Anna has mixed feelings about her mom’s involvement in the Silver Jaguar Society?


Chapter 4 At the end of Chapter 4, José compares Anna’s father to the Malfoy family. Do you think this is fair? How do you think Anna feels about what José said?


Chapter 5 Is it logical for Anna to think the flag might be at the airport? Why do you think she wants to investigate?


Chapter 6 Based on what you know about Snickerbottom so far, would you vote for him for president? Why or why not?


Chapter 7 If you were one of the investigators on the missing flag case, would you consider José’s mom as a possible suspect? Why or why not?


Chapter 8 If you were at the airport investigating the flag theft, who would be on your list of possible suspects? Would Snake-Arm be among them? What would you do to try and get more information?


Chapter 9 Which character—Anna, Henry, or José— would you consider to be the smartest? Are they smart in different ways? If you were investigating a crime, which one would you most want to have as your partner?


Chapter 10 Why do you think Snickerbottom points to the orchestra members as suspects? Is it a fair guess on his part?


Chapter 11 Why do you think Sinan’s family and the other orchestra members are being treated differently now? If you were Anna, Henry, or José, would you get involved? What would you do?


Chapter 12 Why don’t you think José’s mom noticed anything wrong when she did her final check on the flag after the party?


Chapter 13 What do you think of the choice Anna, Henry, and José make at the end of this chapter? Does going into the baggage area to look for Sinan seem like a good idea? Can you think of a better one?


Chapter 14 What do you make of Snake-Arm’s suspicious activities? What evidence has there been that he might be connected to the theft of the flag?


Chapter 15 Looking for the hidden flag in a crowded, busy luggage area is like looking for a needle in a haystack. If you were Anna, Henry, or José, how would you go about tracking it down?


Chapter 16 If you were Anna, what conclusions might you draw based on what you heard the men say in Chapter 16, and why?


Chapter 17 Why do you think Henry snaps at Anna when she’s hesitant about going back to look for the camera?


Chapter 18 Why do you think José quotes people all the time?


Chapter 19 How do you think Anna, Henry, and José have changed since the beginning of the book? Can you find examples in early and later chapters that illustrate those changes?


Chapter 20 What do you think Anna and José should do with the new information José discovers in this chapter?


Chapter 21 How much of an impact does the weather have on this story? Can you think of things that would have happened differently in the airport if it hadn’t been for the big snowstorm?


Chapter 22 If you were Anna, what would you do at the end of this chapter? Can you think of any way out of her situation?


Chapter 23 Do you think it was okay for Henry to hit someone with a golf club in this chapter? Why or why not? What would you have done if you were him? What if you were Anna?


Chapter 24 Now that it’s becoming clear who stole the flag, what do you think the motive might have been? Was there any evidence earlier in the story that pointed in this direction?


Chapter 25 Were you surprised about what you learned about Snake-Arm in this chapter? Looking back at earlier chapters, were there any clues about who he really was?


Chapter 26 If you were a police officer or reporter investigating the flag theft and you had the chance to interview Anna, Henry, and José, what questions would you ask?


Chapter 27 If you were the head of Smithsonian security, what policy changes would you recommend as a result of this heist?


Chapter 28 Do you think the parents owe Anna, Henry, and José more information about the Silver Jaguar Society now? How involved should the kids be from now on?

Interview with Kate Messner

Kate’s Story Behind Capture the Flag

One of the inspirations for Capture the Flag was a letter I received from a kid named Patrick after I’d visited his school in Vermont to talk about one of my earlier titles. His letter was kind but honest and one of my favorites I’ve ever gotten from a reader:

I’m sorry, but I didn’t really like your book. I like books with a lot of action, and I felt there wasn’t enough. It’s just not my type of book. But if it was, I would have thought it was a great one.

Merry Christmas, — Patrick

I decided that day I needed to write a book for Patrick and for all the other Patricks of the world, and that was the inspiration for Capture the Flag as well as a couple of my other upcoming books. When I was researching this book, I realized that if I was going to have a heist from the Smithsonian, I needed a plausible story for how that could happen, so I picked up the phone and called the curator of the Star-Spangled Banner exhibit at the National Museum of American History to ask him how, hypothetically speaking of course, someone might go about stealing his flag. Once he checked me out, he was delighted to help and invited my family to the museum an hour before it opened one day. We spent a delightful morning in the flag exhibit, talking over how one might go about breaking into the enclosure and prowling the Smithsonian’s back hallways and riding the freight elevators to devise a getaway plan for my bad guys. I also love the other setting of this book—airports. I always have because they’re so full of stories. Everybody in an airport has a story—whether they’re coming or going, whether they’re full of eager anticipation or grief. When my family travels, we make up stories about the people hanging around our gate, so this book was a natural extension of that!