Terri Schlichenmeyer: ‘Danger’ is great offering for middle-school readers

By Terri Schlichenmeyer

You are a very brave kid. You’re not one bit afraid of the dark. You love thunderstorms and big noises, slithery things and scary movies. You can shimmy into any spider-filled room or beneath anywhere there might be cobwebs or bugs, no problem.
Nothing makes you run away. Nothing makes you shake with shivers or quake with terror. Bring on the fear. You can take it. You’re a very brave kid.
But be careful what you ask for, as you’ll see in the new book “Danger! Open with Extreme Caution” by Laura Buller, Susan Kennedy, Jim Pipe, Richard Walker and the DK folks.
So you say you’re tough. You can walk over gravel, barefoot. You can climb gi-normous rocks and wrestle with older brothers. You can take on stinky diapers, nasty teachers, and adults with bad breath. But would you be willing to take a swim?
Wait. Think before you answer. What if the pool contained a stinging catfish, a poisonous sea snake, a hippopotamus with a head like a hammer to “bash you to oblivion,” and an octopus that could make you stop breathing?
OK, the pool is out. You’ll just go for a nice, quiet walk.
And run into colored rain from an exploded meteor, or hot wind that could bake you alive, or maybe hailstones that could knock you unconscious. You could be an unfortunate victim of a dust devil or a derecho. Maybe you’d encounter lightning or a tornado, or another Ice Age could spontaneously occur.
All right. No going outside, then. You’ll stay inside.
There, you’ll find glue and that might send you to the hospital. You might catch all kinds of deadly diseases, or a rhinovirus or propionibacterium (in other words, a cold or a zit). You could slip on a chair or trip over a backpack. And eventually, you’d want to eat something. Eating can be very dangerous.
OK. Can’t stay in. Can’t go outside. How about time travel?
Nice try. What if you accidentally kill your great-grandfather 100 years ago? You’d never be born then, right? Or you might fall into a black hole and get smooshed. Or what if you carried diseases back with you? Then YOU would be the danger!
Got a kid who’s struggling to stay on track with his reading this winter? Then you must put a copy of “Danger! Open with Extreme Caution” in his hands.
Like many other DK books of this sort, “Danger!” is jam-packed with things kids love knowing about. There are sharks in here, space travel, creepy bugs and weird weather. Your child will love reading about places he shouldn’t go (and why), things he shouldn’t eat (or where), and people he’d best not mess with (ever). There are sidebars galore here, comics for fun, and tons of learning to do.
But you don’t have to tell him that.
While a 9-year-old “good reader” could probably handle this book, I think middle-schoolers will get more out of it. For them, “Danger! Open with Extreme Caution” is dangerously cool.

Terri Schlichenmeyer has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. She lives in West Salem, Wis., with two dogs and more than 9,500 books.