Illustrator: Scott Plumbe
Series: Explorer Academy #1
Published by Under the Stars on September 4, 2018
Genres: Middle Grade, Action & Adventure
Source: The Publisher
My content rating: MG (Some mild violence, A possible hint of future romance?)
Adventure, danger, and a thrilling global mission await 12-year-old Cruz Coronado as he joins an elite school for explorers.
Cruz leaves his tranquil home in Hawaii to join 23 talented kids from around the globe to train at the Explorer Academy with the world's leading scientists to become the next generation of great explorers. But for Cruz, there's more at stake. No sooner has he arrived at the Academy than he discovers that his family has a mysterious past with the organization that could jeopardize his future. In the midst of codebreaking and cool classes, new friends and augmented reality expeditions, Cruz must tackle the biggest question of all: Who is out to get him, and why?
Readers can get in on the excitement with puzzles and codes embedded throughout.
This is a fun and adventurous first book in a younger middle grade series. Filled with high-tech gadgets and virtual reality(ish) simulations of distant lands, it’s sure to capture readers’ imaginations. At the end of the book, there’s even some real-world discussion of innovations that could lead to the many different types of tech in the book—I loved that real-world tie-in. Cruz’s virtual “journeys” to different lands were interesting—I especially loved the trip to the butterfly conservation area in Mexico—and they always had a bit of excitement thrown in as well. Kids will appreciate the diverse cast (especially the Scottish character, whose distinct phrases are really fun), and the fact that they can learn some interesting facts throughout the book without feeling like they’re learning. I’m guessing this book would have been a big hit with my kids a few years ago.
Be forewarned that this is very much a setup to a series—the book introduces the Explorer Academy and sets up the mystery of what happened to Cruz’s mom. It also introduces a set of clues that Cruz must follow in future books. Still, my daughter (a few years ago, when she would have been the right age for this book) wouldn’t have minded this, I don’t think. There was enough story to keep you interested and a resolution to at least one issue that was brought up in the book (though that issue was introduced relatively late). I think it would be enough to keep a younger middle grade reader interested and wanting to read more.
One other note: I don’t usually talk about the actual construction of a book, but I have to say that this book is beautifully made. The pages are thick and it has colored illustrations throughout. The whole thing feels like a National Geographic book—like a smaller version of one of their coffee table books. I was super impressed with the quality and thought it really set this book apart.
***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
About The Author
Trudi Trueit is a gifted storyteller for middle-grade audiences. She has written more than 100 books for young readers, both fiction and nonfiction, including The Sister Solution, Stealing Popular and the Secrets of a Lab Rat series. Trueit lives in Everett, Washington.
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