A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Kids will be introduced to the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World in the Seven Wonders series. Here readers visit the Hanging Gardens of Babylon as they were in antiquity and the great pyramids in Egypt as they are today. There's also a bit about the daily life and clothing of ancient Babylon. The myth of Atlantis and its sinking is discussed, in less detail than in the first book, as is genetic mutation (an imaginary one, in this case). The main characters solve puzzles to follow clues, breaking codes and using logic to find the most likely answers. Math comes in handy to figure out how much more slowly time passes in the time-warped Babylon they visit.
Teamwork, bravery, and believing in yourself are overlying messages in the first Seven Wonders book and in Lost in Babylon, as well. A friend's betrayal is a huge blow. Adults and their motivations are still not to be trusted, especially when there are two very different versions of the "truth" about the fall of Atlantis.
Positive Role Models
Jack continues to be the most conscientious of the group. He makes a decision to lose what he needs to stay alive to save others. Cass loses confidence in his abilities and is reminded by his friends how important he is to the team. Aly, the smartest of the group and the only girl, shows a lot of bravery at a key moment. Marco uses his brawn and amazing physical abilities first to help his friends but then to show off in front of others who feed his already inflated ego.
Violence & Scariness
Four 13-year-olds are on adventures alone for most of the book, fighting mythological creatures, such as the monstrous mushushu and the vizzeet that sprays prey with burning spit, and fighting humans carrying dart guns, real guns, throwing knives, and spears. They are kidnapped, held prisoner, burned, nearly gassed, knocked unconscious, cut badly (Marco on the leg and between his toes), and swarmed by rats. They arrive in Babylon in time to see the end of a stoning where a man is thrown into a moat with crocodiles (not described in detail). A creature is stabbed senselessly and killed while it's tranquilized; an enemy killed by a spear is then picked apart by birds; and Marco fights a large, caged cat for sport. There's talk of how Jack lost his mom when she went on an expedition in Antarctica and how all the young teens who were taken from their families miss home; a visit to Marco's family's house shows how the whole family suffers because they think Marco is missing or dead. A friend in the time-warped ancient Babylon is thought lost forever when all starts to collapse. The teen characters will collapse and could die without treatments for their rare genetic disorder that also makes them gifted.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Some jealousy and crushes, but nothing overt.
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"Ass" once, and a mention that kids heard "a new vocabulary of very bad words."
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Products & Purchases
Both Wrigley's spearmint gum and Ben & Jerry's ice cream become part of the action, plus quick mentions of Yale, Disney, Jeep, and iPod.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Quick mention that some guards smoke.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Peter Lerangis' Lost in Babylon is the second book in the Seven Wonders series, which sets four 13-year-olds on adventures to find seven sources of power, each hidden in one of the Ancient Wonders of the World. In this series installment, they visit the Hanging Gardens of Babylon as they were in antiquity (through a clever time warp) and the great pyramids in Egypt as they are today. Violence continues to be about average for the fantasy-adventure genre. The teens get some bloody injuries and burns from fantasy creatures, are kidnapped, and fight against enemies with spears, dart guns and modern guns, and throwing knives. It gets a little gruesome when a man is speared and picked apart by birds and another is stoned and thrown to the crocodiles (neither event is described in detail). The same talented kids are brave and resourceful and work well together to survive but also encounter a major betrayal. All of them need special treatments to stay alive, thanks to the genetic defect that marks them as both gifted and as descendants of Atlantis.
Is It Any Good?
Just like Book 1, LOST IN BABYLON has all the bait that fantasy-adventure fans need to dive right in. It will entertain, sure -- and lure you to the next book with a great cliffhanger -- but it won't stick with you like a Rick Riordan mythology-tinged adventure.
Peter Lerangis' characters still need more to them. Readers may find themselves rooting more for Daria, a cool new Babylonian girl, than for the foursome at the center of the story -- not good. And again, adults who want something from the teens are barely described, and this is what's supposed to make all of them untrustworthy. Hmm... Without solid characters to build your story on, this tower will fall.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.