Posted in Adventure, Espionage, Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

New NatGeo Explorer Academy: The Falcon’s Feather

Explorer Academy: The Falcon’s Feather, by Trudi Treueit/Illustrated by Scott Plumbe (interior) and Antonio Javier Caparo (cover), (March 2019, National Geographic), $16.99, ISBN: 9781426333040

Ages 9-13

The second Explorer Academy adventure picks up shortly after the first adventure, The Nebula Secret, concludes, and the action kicks in pretty quickly. Cruz Coronado is back, and he’s on a mission to get the remaining ciphers that his mother hid around the world before her untimely death. His best friends, Emmett and Sailor, are right in the thick of it with him, and his Aunt Marisol is, too. The evil Nebula group is still trying to get Cruz out of the way, and now, there’s something new afoot; something only hinted at: they want Cruz done away with before his 13th birthday. Could it be something to do with that unusual DNA-shaped birthmark on his arm? We’ll have to keep reading to find out, because that’s all you’re going to get here.

In addition to the globe-hopping mystery, The Falcon’s Feather also talks conservation and preservation; this time, Cruz and his friends save a pod of whales entangled in nets, and, while visiting the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway, have a discussion about biodiversity. NatGeo is committed to educating readers about world issues, and this is a great way to do it: put kids in the middle of an adventure and let them experience it! There are all sorts of new gadgets and gizmos in this volume, and Mell, our favorite robot bee, is back. One scientist creates a communication device that allows Cruz to communicate with the endangered whales, and it’s an outstanding moment in the book; Cruz’s world opens up when he not only hears the whales’ songs, but connects them to human understanding. This installment ends on a tense note, assuring that readers (like me!) will be waiting for the next book. The Truth Behind the Fiction section introduces us to the real-life scientists who inspire some of the book’s characters, including a deep-sea submersible pilot, an explorer studying ecosystems and biodiversity, and a geoscientist researching climate change. Color illustrations throughout the book are just gorgeous and will keep readers turning pages. Maps at the beginning of some chapters help place readers when the characters find themselves in a new location.

This series is a no-brainer. Get it on your shelves for your burgeoning explorers/conservationists/secret agents, or just readers who love a good, tight suspense read.


Posted in Animal Fiction, Early Reader, Fiction, Fiction

Moon’s Messenger carries a beautiful and powerful message.

Moon is a young girl, sitting on the beach, when a sea turtle approaches her, beckoning her to join him in a journey through our planet. He quietly shows her the havoc people have wreaked on our environment: extinction, oil spills and pollution, global warming among a mere few of the methods. A message of hope and rebirth infuses Moon with purpose and action to protect the environment, and just as importantly, the living creatures we share it with.

moons messenger

Moon’s Messenger, by Virginia Kroll/Illustrated by Zusanna Celej (March 2016, Cuento de Luz), $16.95, ISBN: 9788416147205.
Recommended for ages 5-10

Moon’s Messenger is a powerful tale about conservation and activism, relying on watercolor images that are as heartbreaking as they are beautiful: a tired polar bear, trying to find an iceberg to rest on; local wildlife, deer and raccoons, ransacking residential garbage because their habitats are disappearing, giving way to more and more homes for people; sea life covered in oil and suffocating. And then, the turtle lays its eggs, and it’s beautiful again. There’s hope in the world, because there’s life, and now, one child knows what she has to do.

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The text and images are not subtle – the author and artist are not hiding their message, and they are appealing to our next generation. Endpapers alternately draw you in and warn you about what you’re going to read – an ocean floor with the skeletons of extinct animals to bring you in, and to lead you out, the same image, but with information about green sea turtles, the dangers they face in our environment, and a call to action to readers: What will you do to help?

I loved this book, I loved the message, and I’m going to make sure it’s an Earth Day (April 22) storytime for my little ones. The small, black font takes nothing away from the images, and reading this aloud may be a bit of a challenge unless you’ve familiarized yourself with the story a couple of times. The text and ideas are better for a Kindergarten – Grade 2 audience, and pairing a reading with a reduce/reuse/recycling activity will let kids see how they can contribute to making the world a better place with their own two hands. Teach the kids in your life to respect nature, respect biodiversity, and respect our planet, and use this book as a valuable guide. I’d love to see an educators’ guide to this book with further resources and exercises for younger kids.

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