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“Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”
Summary: While checking on the wreck of the HMS Pandora, Alfie, a diver, goes missing. Only the Global Protection Force can help, and Jack is dispatched from London to Australia's Great Barrier Reef. Within minutes of his arrival, Jack determines finds the kidnappers and Alfie. That was easy! But bringing Alfie home alive and recovering the treasure...not so much. He must get past a Komodo dragon, deadly jellyfish, some sharks, and pirates. This adventure series offers remedial and reluctant readers a chance to discover why reading is fun.
Type of Reading: bedtime story, family reading, anytime reading, read loud book, learning to read, remedial reading
Recommended Age: read together: 6 to 12; read yourself: 7 to 12
Interest Level: 6 to 12
Age of Child: Read with 6-year-old girl. Read by 8-year-old boy.
Young Reader Reaction: We shared this book in chapters, over the course of a week. Our daughter enjoyed the story, and was ready each morning to find out what happened next. The eight-year-old loved the multiple climaxes and high points when you’re not sure whether Jack will escape.
Adult Reader Reaction: This is a fun (if somewhat predictable) read. Since our child was listening, we were able to moderate the reading to bypass/tone down some of the violence. The author has created a wonderful model for introducing factual and historical information in a way that will not only keep kids reading, but could motivate them to learn more.
Second reader: I liked the way this book mimicked action TV shows with multiple narrow escapes by Jack, the main character. Right up to the end, you wondered as a reader if he was going to be successful.
Pros: There are plenty of predicaments and gadgets to keep readers turning pages in this adventure series. Parents will like that the stories have information sheets in the front and additional facts built into the plot. The fact that this book is the provides the first chapter of the next book is a plus for the series.
Cons: You know your child best. This is a fun adventure, but there are violent scenes (both text and visually). Our child happens to "internalize" stories she hears, so we tried to read ahead before we shared the story with her.
Second reader: The 11 pages that "set up" the story could be condensed or eliminated. It might even be better if they were included at the end with a reference at the beginning. That way, young readers can avoid the “prep” reading before actually reading the story.
Borrow or Buy: Buy. This is one of those rare books that may not stay with your library forever, but could be read again, then shared with friends. I’d recommend this for classroom libraries or the public library although I’m not sure I would buy it for my own library.
Educational Themes: Although this is principally a fantasy adventure, the book offers information and leads for further discovery on these topics: spies and spying; pirates; Asian clans/gangs; Australia; sea animals (sharks); rare animals (Komodo dragon); Great Barrier Reef; wreck of the HMS Pandora; and diving. This book could be used in conjunction with social studies when studying Australia, shipwrecks or pirates. A Komodo dragon plays a role as well which might be interesting tap into reptiles (science) for young readers. Excerpts could also be used in writing instruction, modeling the use of dialogue, what introductions and conclusions look like and in vocabulary instruction (the author uses good word choice in her writing), especially in the descriptive parts.
Notes: These illustrated chapter books are also available in Spanish.
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