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The latest Explorer Academy installment, and a code-breaking adventure!

One of my absolute favorite middle grade series to emerge in the last couple of years has been, without a doubt, the Explorer Academy series from NatGeo Kids by Trudi Trueit. I’ve been waiting on every book in the series with the same anticipation, excitement, and – when the book is done – pins and needles feeling, knowing I have to wait for another book in the series. I’ve gotten my nephew hooked on the series, too: when I get my hello hug from him, he’ll say, “Did you get the next Explorer Academy book yet?” I’ve just ordered the first three books for my library, too, so I’m going to start booktalking this to my I Survived readers… which is to say, all my readers. So let’s talk about that third book, shall we?

Explorer Academy: The Double Helix, by Trudi Trueit, (Sept. 2019, National Geographic Kids), $16.99, ISBN: 9781426334580

Ages 8-13

Things are heating up with the third book in the Explorer Academy series! In the last book, The Falcon’s Feather, Cruz Coronado and his friends narrowly escaped a scary situation, only to discover that Cruz’s dad has disappeared. The shadowy Nebula group is getting braver in their pursuit of Cruz and the pieces of his mother’s ciphers. Cruz needs to stay one step ahead of them while trying to track down his father, and find the next cipher. The closer Cruz gets to his 13th birthday, the higher the stakes. What happens when Cruz turns 13? WE NEED TO KNOW!

While the main plot continues to be Cruz vs. the Nebula group, we get some great subplots, including a look at space archaeology, where scientists use satellites to look for signs of looting at ancient burial sites. There’s great technology, too: this time around, the kids get to work with a PANDA: a Portable Artifact and Data Analyzer, that scans items and identifies the origins of bones, fossils, pottery, and includes a holographic image of the artifact being scanned.

Illustrated throughout, the latest installment is white-knuckle reading that adventure fans will refuse to put down from start to finish. The characters have become old friends at this point, so readers can jump in, reacquaint themselves, and get down to the business of conservation, preservation, and solving mysteries. The Truth Behind the Fiction highlights a space archaeologist and Egyptologist. Don’t miss this one.


Explorer Academy: Code-Breaking Activity Adventure, by National Geographic Kids, (May 2019, National Geographic Kids), $12.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-3307-1

Ages 8-12

Who loves secret codes? This book, written like a handbook for Explorer Academy students, teaches readers secret codes while sending them on codebreaking missions throughout the book. Hubbard, the adorable Westie who shows up in the Explorer Academy series, appears throughout the book with helpful hints if you get stuck. Readers and codebreakers will learn about acrostic messages, morse code, semaphore, pigpen ciphers, and more, all while learning about different areas in the Explorer Academy: The Library, the CAVE, and the Museum, for starters. A certificate of achievement is ready for readers who finish their missions.

This book is just too much fun, and nicely incorporates the Explorer Academy into the activities. This book would be beat up in circulation in my library, but for Explorer Academy fans, this is a great gift. And for kids who love the spy activities I have at my library, this will be a fun group of exercises to emulate. I had a fun Spy Week during Summer Reading a few years ago; bringing some secret coding adventures back may be fun to explore. Since I have the Explorer Academy books arriving at my library soon, it may be time for an Explorer Academy adventure, with some codebreaking and scavenger hunts around the children’s room… hmmm…


I'm a mom, a children's librarian, bibliophile, and obsessive knitter. I'm a pop culture junkie and a proud nerd, and favorite reads usually fall into Sci-Fi/Fantasy. I review comics and graphic novels at WhatchaReading ( I'm also the co-founder of On Wednesdays We Wear Capes (, where I discuss pop culture and geek fandom from a female point of view.

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