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Summary: Jake is a lonely boy whose parents have mysteriously disappeared. All he can think about is trying to find out what happened. Jake and his older sister Kady are invited to an exhibition where their parents’ archeological discoveries are displayed, when they are transported into a strange world, inhabited by long-lost civilizations. The story follows their quest to find their parents, study the ancient Mayans, and even learn a few science lessons. This is the first book in an adventure series that is on the level of Magic Tree House, but is more Harry Potter meets Indiana Jones.
Type of Reading: bedtime story, family reading, independent reading, read aloud book, reluctant reader, remedial reader
Recommended Age: read together: 9 to 13; read yourself: 12 and up
Young Reader Reaction: Jake Ransom and the Skull King's Shadow was a great adventure book. All in all, though, this was a mediocre book. There was nothing separating it from any other book. Even though it was very adventurous, it still lacked excitement. Even though it was normal I would still recommend it to kids middle schools.
Adult Reader Reaction: I did like this book, especially because it’s the first in a series. I like following a story, and getting to know the characters in depth. This book is very fast-paced, with lots of action, so it would be great for kids who get bored with books quickly. It is history with a mystery. This is for older children because of the complexity of the plot. It is too long to read in one sitting, but would be good for reading aloud in chapters with younger audiences.
Pros: This Jake Ransom book is fast-paced and very educational. Everyone can enjoy the lessons and themes of science, history, and archeology woven into the story.
Cons: Readers who don't like violence need to know there is a lot of bloodshed and killing.
Borrow or Buy: Borrow. I enjoyed this book, but I am going with borrow for now because it is the first book in the series. I would like to read the 2nd story, and then I might change my opinion to buy.
Educational Themes: Science, history, and archeology are themes throughout the story, and they are discussed in enough detail to offer learning opportunities. Jake never gives up (persistence) and uses his brain to to figure things out, not a computer. That is a huge lesson for kids these days.
Notes: The publisher donated a copy of this book knowing that we would consider it for review and provide an independent, unbiased profile. This book will be given to a nonprofit to help readers in need.
Literary Categories: Fiction - fantasy, adventure, mystery, middle grade series
Date(s) Reviewed: January 2010, April 2013
Other Reviews: See Critics' Reviews and reader feedback at amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.