A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that, though little is described in graphic detail, the level of violence is pretty high for a children's book. And while it is fantasy violence, it can be intense: At one point, the protagonists are chained for two days in a cage that floods almost to the top at high tide, and at another they are trapped in a flooding cave filled with rats and snakes. This book -- and its many sequels -- includes a wealth of historical, geographic, scientific, and period detail. Also, fans may be inspired to read the other books in this series. It also features curious and adventurous siblings who work together to save their parents and stay alive.
What's the story?
In 1920, 15-year-old Becca and her 13-year-old brother Doug have had behavior problems since their parents disappeared a year ago. They have been expelled from several schools and bounced from relative to relative. Now they are sent to Shanghai to stay with their Uncle Fitzroy MacKenzie, captain of the research ship Expedient. But Capt. MacKenzie's ship holds many secrets, not least of which are the torpedo tubes and two powerful hidden naval guns on hydraulic lifts. Soon the siblings are literally up to their eyeballs (you'll have to read the book to find out how that can be literal) in an adventure involving vicious 20th century pirates, kidnappings, murder, gadgets, explosives, and a centuries-old secret society of which their parents may have been a part.
Is it any good?
This mystery/adventure is a delightful mix of Jules Verne, Tom Swift, and Sherlock Holmes. It combines swordfighting, exotic locales, lots of science and pseudo-science, photos, maps, appendices, and nonstop excitement, all making for a rich and stimulating reading experience. Purporting to be from a secret underground archive found when the author's great-aunt -- who was the young girl of the story -- died and left him her house, it boasts an incredible level of detail and extras. They show a devotion to the creation of this fictional society that borders on the obsessive. From the moment you pick up this book, it is purely enjoyable – the kind of plain, old-fashioned literary fun you rarely see nowadays.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about fantasy violence. Is it different than violence that takes place in a more realistic setting?
For kids who love adventure stories
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