45 pages 1 hour read

Gordon Korman

Chasing the Falconers

Fiction | Novel | Middle Grade | Published in 2003

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Summary and Study Guide


Chasing the Falconers (2005) is the first book in the middle grade adventure series On the Run by Gordon Korman. The saga chronicles the attempts of siblings Aiden and Meg Falconer to clear their parents of wrongdoing while outrunning and outwitting the authorities who pursue them. The series includes six books published between 2005 and 2006. Korman has written over 100 books for children, middle grade, and young adult readers. He has sold over 30 million books worldwide. Korman continues the story of Aiden and Meg in a follow-up three-book series entitled Kidnapped, in which Meg is taken and Aiden must hunt her captors while uncovering how their motives are linked to his family’s “criminal” past.

This guide refers to the 2005 Scholastic edition.

Content Warning: The source text and this guide discuss children in juvenile detention, adults in a maximum-security prison, physical violence, child abuse, and manslaughter.

Plot Summary

Chasing the Falconers opens at Sunnydale Farm, a juvenile corrections facility in Nebraska. Fifteen-year-old Aiden Falconer and his 11-year-old sister, Margaret, or “Meg,” have been living there ever since their parents were tried and convicted of treason. During the trial, Aiden’s parents claimed that a man named Frank Lindenauer had recruited them to work for the CIA and that Lindenauer could prove they were not only innocent but also working for the Americans. Lindenauer is never found, and the CIA claims that no agent with that name works with them. Aiden and Meg knew Lindenauer as “Uncle Frank,” a family friend who disappeared when he was most needed.

At Sunnydale, Aiden is bullied by Miguel Reyes, who is incarcerated for manslaughter. Miguel says that the best way to escape Sunnydale is to set it on fire and flee in the chaos. Miguel explains that he would flee to New Jersey, where he has a brother who will take him in.

Aiden is assigned night feeding duties on the farm and accidentally kicks a kerosene lamp over in a hay-filled chicken coop. Fire erupts, and soon the coop, the adjoining barn, and the nearby inmate quarters are aflame. Aiden rushes into the burning girls’ dormitory and saves his sister. Once outside, she convinces Aiden that they should use this opportunity to escape and try to prove their parents’ innocence. Within minutes, they are fleeing through the cornfields on foot, though Aiden does not believe that two kids can prove what teams of lawyers failed to.

Aiden and Meg steal clothing and bikes from a farmhouse and pedal away from Sunnydale without a plan. While biking, Aiden remembers a summer nine years earlier when his family vacationed with Uncle Frank and his girlfriend, Jane. Aiden had taken a photo of Frank and Jane and stored it in a secret compartment in the home that the family used to rent during the summer in Vermont. He tells Meg about his plan to find the photo, find Lindenauer, and prove that their parents are telling the truth.

They find a map in a gas station and decide to follow the train tracks east. At a remote train station, they encounter Miguel. The trio sneaks into a boxcar and rides to Chicago, where police are waiting at the station. They escape through a hatch in the roof and evade police pursuit by hiding in an empty home. Miguel convinces them to change their appearances, and they steal the car from the home’s garage and head east, with Miguel at the wheel.

The young Falconers are hunted by FBI Agent Emmanuel Harris, the man responsible for locking up their parents. Harris has a hunch that the Falconers are among those who escaped from the farm in Nebraska and launches his own search.

When the car runs out of gas, Aiden siphons fuel from a truck, only to be caught by the truckers. Miguel abandons Aiden, but Meg soon forces him to return and rescue her brother. Once reunited and back on the highway, Miguel turns on the radio to hear an announcer reveal that two of the escapees from Sunnydale are the children of the infamous Falconer traitors. Miguel is furious, but Meg explains that their parents are innocent. In response, Miguel says that he understands what it means to be falsely incarcerated. He says that he only pushed his stepfather out of self-defense and that in the aftermath, his family couldn’t afford a lawyer. Aiden and Meg at last understand that justice is a complicated ideal, applied haphazardly and susceptible to fault. Miguel is not a murderer but a boy who defended himself, just as their parents are not traitors but patriots who have been falsely accused.

Miguel drives the trio to his brother Freddy’s house in New Jersey. However, Freddy is on parole and cannot help. He gives Miguel money and banishes him from the family. Stunned, Miguel cannot drive. Aiden takes the wheel, and they escape New Jersey for Vermont, where they pay cash for a motel room to wait out a storm.

In the morning, the storm has worsened. They look outside to see police surrounding the stolen car. Thinking quickly, the trio escapes through the bathroom window and runs through the woods with the police in pursuit. The children fall down a steep hill and slide onto a street near a rain-soaked dock. Miguel pulls them into the hull of a sailboat, where they wait until night.

Under the cover of darkness, Aiden leads the trio to the lake house that he remembers from his younger years. He and Meg run upstairs, where Aiden peels away paneling in his old bedroom and pulls out a cigar box, finding the photo of Uncle Frank. Downstairs, they hear Miguel cry for help. Meg convinces Aiden to abandon Miguel to the police, just as Miguel abandoned Aiden while siphoning gas. From outside the home, they hear the attacker asking Miguel where his sister is. Then, a shot rings out. Aiden rushes through the front door and crashes into a pale, bald man with a gun. The gun falls, and Aiden grabs something off the wall and knocks the attacker unconscious. Miguel has been shot, and the siblings take him to the road, where a driver of a passing car calls an ambulance. Miguel warns the siblings that the stranger, who he calls Hairless Joe, wants them both dead.

Agent Harris intercepts the ambulance and questions Miguel, who refuses to betray his friends. He calls for backup, knowing that the kids are on foot. Meanwhile, Aiden and Meg steal an ATV and cut through woods and fields, taking refuge from the storm in an old barn. They examine the photo of Uncle Frank and find the name of a hotel in the background of the photo. Aiden says that as long as there are clues to follow, they will continue the hunt for justice for their incarcerated parents.