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Book Review: "Middleworld" (The Jaguar Stones, Book One)

By It's My Life on June 28, 2010 4:40 PM | No TrackBacks

Here in IML-land, we've started reading more and more books for tweens. Some of them are pretty great. Many of them are not. We're always on the lookout for a book that's well-written, tells a story we haven't seen before, and might help readers learn something new about themselves or the world around us. That's a tall order!

But we found one recently, and wanted to share it with you.

middleworld.gifIn "Middleworld," by J&P Voelkel, 14-year-old gaming master Max lives a pampered life in Boston with his parents, Frank and Carla, who are both archaeologists and experts on the Maya civilization. When they cancel a family vacation to rush to a dig in the tiny Central American country of San Xavier, he's had it with them always putting their work before their son.

Then they summon Max to join them, but when he arrives, he finds that Mom and Dad have gone missing. Now Max has a mission of his own, on which he embarks with the help of Lola, a Maya girl. It involves ancient secrets, mysterious strangers to whom he's connected in surprising ways, haunted temples, zombie armies, and bad guys appropriately called the Lords of Death.

The cover of "Middleworld" makes it seem more like a ride at Disneyland than a juicy novel, but once you get into Max's journey it's hard to slow down. The story moves fast and sucks you in, and is told with the help of fun, well-placed illustrations -- which are nice to see in a book like this. There's also a glossary of Maya terms and some other helpful facts about culture, and we liked flipping to those pages so we could better understand some of the people, places, and things introduced in the story.

It's hard to find action-adventure books that don't talk down to tween readers, and we felt this one does a great job of avoiding that. The writing is smart and the characters interesting, and even while Max is braving a lot of way-out stuff in the tropical rainforest, it's easy to connect with him. "Middleworld" is the first of a series of books, so if you feel you can stand being hooked on another epic tale, we encourage you to jump in! You won't be disappointed. (And you'll end up an expert on the Maya culture, or at least be able to make great chicken tamales.)

IML's Rating: A




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