Peg Kehret

Stolen Children

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Stolen Children Summary

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Stolen Children (2008), a young adult suspense novel by Peg Kehret, focuses on a babysitting job that becomes a nightmare when an armed gang kidnaps both the babysitter and the child. The book received positive reviews upon publication and won awards, including the 2010 Charlotte Award and the 2011 Iowa Children’s Choice Award. Kehret writes middle-grade and young adult fiction. She has received numerous accolades over her career. She was paralyzed with polio at twelve; most of her protagonists are around that age. She currently volunteers with animal rescue groups.

Amy Nordlund is struggling to get over her father’s death because they had an argument before he died in a car accident. Now that she and her mother are trying to heal, she is determined to prove that she is a daughter to be proud of. She wants to show that she is responsible, which is what she argued with her father about.

She decides that getting a part-time job is the best way to prove this to her mother. In addition, it lets Amy help with the growing pile of unpaid bills. Amy signs up for babysitting classes and soon is assigned her first job. Amy can’t believe her luck—the parents, the Edgertons, are wealthy, live in a fancy house, and have a lovely daughter. For a first babysitting job, it doesn’t get much better than this. She’s going to make good money, and hopefully, it won’t be the last job with the family.

When Amy is alone with young Kendra, she puts her down for a nap very easily. Kendra is no trouble at all, and Amy is left to explore the house. She eats fancy ice cream from the freezer, and she plays with all the high-tech gadgets. She takes some time to herself to hang out by the pool. However, Amy soon worries that the house is too quiet; an instinct tells her that something could be wrong.

Amy worries that she’s being paranoid and that she’s going to wake up Kendra. Still, she goes inside and makes for Kendra’s room. Before she gets to Kendra, she sees Kendra’s favorite teddy bear lying discarded on the ground. Amy doesn’t have much time to panic, though, because someone grabs her from behind. Only now, does she understand what’s going on—they’re being kidnapped at gunpoint.

Two kidnappers shove Amy and Kendra into a car, intent on driving them to some unknown location. Amy is terrified—no amount of babysitting training could have prepared her for a situation like this. Kendra is hysterical; knowing this might make things worse, Amy tries to calm the child down.

The kidnappers take them to a secluded cabin in the middle of nowhere. There’s no cell phone reception. Amy asks what the men want, and they make her and Kendra stand in front of a camera. They’ve kidnapped the girls for ransom because they know Kendra’s parents are rich. They didn’t plan on Amy being there, but they have no choice but to involve her now.

Amy, however, comes up with a plan. She senses the kidnappers aren’t all that evil and that they’re incompetent. She wonders if there’s a way she can send a message out when the kidnappers aren’t looking. The kidnappers let Kendra and Amy stay alone in another room for a long time, and Amy tries to teach Kendra a secret language. She plans on using this language to communicate with a friend who might be able to see the signals. However, there’s no sign that the code worked, and Amy starts to panic.

Later that day, someone else arrives at the cabin. It’s the Edgertons’ normal babysitter, who’s actually part of the plot to ransom money from the family. She learns that the men were only able to get into the house because the babysitter copied the key. Amy is terrified now; she doesn’t see any way out of this situation. There are too many grownups, and they have guns.

The babysitter, however, decides she no longer wants to be part of the deal. She skips out on the kidnappers, leaving them to handle Amy and Kendra. Meanwhile, no one has heard from the parents yet, they haven’t paid any money. The kidnappers will release Kendra once they get paid, but they know they have to kill Amy because she’s old enough to identify them.

Amy’s not stupid; she realizes this. She knows no one is coming to save her, and she is worried they won’t let Kendra go whatever they say. When they’re not paying attention, Amy makes the bold decision to grab Kendra and run. She finds help along the road, and they make it to safety. The kidnappers are caught, and Kendra is returned to her parents safe and sound.

Not letting fear hold her back, Amy did everything she could to save Kendra’s life. Her mother is sure that her father would be very proud of her, if he were still alive. Amy can now let her guilt go.