Parents' Guide to

Saltwater Taffy

By Darienne Stewart, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 9+

Adventure tale sinks under weight of laudable goals.

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SALTWATER TAFFY is a decent yarn with a heart of gold. It offers great material for fans of ciphers, maps, and pirate history, enlivened with R.C. Nason's cinematic artwork. Unfortunately, it's undermined by endless sermonizing and so-so writing. Author Eric DelaBarre has great intentions, working in "treasure tips" ("If you want to be great, you have to think great thoughts") and a heartfelt afterword. Unfortunately, the book sounds as if it's being narrated by a motivational speaker rather than a 13-year-old kid. Whenever the action gets going, Scott pauses to reflect on his life journey and share yet another epiphany. "I decided to look at my life from a place of happiness," he declares soon after watching his friend swept away to his presumed death in a raging river. The age disconnect pops up in large and small ways, as when a boy's construction of an anachronistic soda-and-candy bomb is compared to "a bartender skewering olives."

Parents may appreciate the life lessons more than their children do. They should be aware that the children in the story engage in behavior that decades ago might have been laughed off as kids being kids -- M-80 explosives and water balloons -- but today would land them in real trouble. Even worse, adults are sometimes complicit and the children face no consequences.

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