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“Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”
Summary: Zia, Jack (14), and Max are a multinational team of teen investigators. Unlike most of the students at Ripley High these three (and a few of other friends) know that the Ripley Bureau of Investigation lies under their school. Their mission is to find out if there really is a "lizard man" in the Florida Everglades. They have some general information, but they need to get to the truth. It's not going to be easy, because everywhere they turn it seems there are alligators, snakes, or the agents of the Department of Unbelievable Lies. With all this mystery and distraction will they get to the truth or get lost in the mangroves forever? This is a mystery adventure series for readers moving toward full-length novels.
Type of Reading: bedtime story, family reading, anytime reading, independent reading, read aloud book, reluctant reader, elementary reader
Recommended Age: read together: 7 to 9; read yourself: 8 to 12
Interest Level: 7 to 10
Reading Level: 2.6
Age of Child: Read with and by an 8-year-old girl.
Young Reader Reaction: Our daughter loved this book. Each night we sat down to read she always asked for one more chapter, particularly if what we finished left something "hanging."
Adult Reader Reaction: This is a fun series. I like the use of the sidebar graphics and how they pull out elements from the story to offer facts that might interest kids. This is fast-paced, and each chapter has just enough suspense to keep you wanting to read it all in one sitting.
Pros: Kid sleuths, cool gadgets, and typical Ripley facts combine well in this fast-paced mystery for transitoinal readers. The illustrations and short sentences make this an excellent choice for dormant readers, too.
Cons: I wish the book's quality was a little better. As paperbacks go, this one doesn't seem built to last.
Borrow or Buy: Borrow, unless you're thinking about collecting the series. This is a fun, fast-paced read that is great any time of year but could come in handy when you need some summer reading.
Educational Themes: This is largely a book for recreational reading, though there are interesting and unusual facts peppered throughout the book. They could be the basis for other research and reading. With a little stretch, you could talk about friendship, problem solving, and responsibility.
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 - adventure, mystery, series book
Date(s) Reviewed: April 2010
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