Mathilda and Mathew are fraternal twins and as different as night and day and unaware of their feelings for each other until their mother and father announce that they are about to divorce and that Mathew is to live with their father while Mathilda remains with their mother. When their parents are only slightly sympathetic and their arguments fail, Mathilda and Mathew run away to live with their estranged Uncle Ben who lives near Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. Unfortunately, the twins get only his answering machine (hence the title); Ben is away on an extended vacation and they are forced to live with other homeless people in the park. To complicate the matter, a murderer is on the loose. There are flaws in the novel: Matthew's transformation from nerd to hero is rather abrupt and the ending is a bit too tidy. Still, it's an interesting setting and a pretty good mystery but it's the plight of the homeless that stays with you after the book is shut.
Students might like to compare and contrast At the Sound of the Beep with Paula Fox's Monkey Island which goes at the plight of the homeless less obliquely and Lois Lowry's Taking Care of Terrific which is slightly easier to read.
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In Times Past
by Carol Hurst and Rebecca Otis
Integrating US History with Literature in Grades 3-8.
Enliven your US History curriculum!
Teach US History using great kids books.