A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Plenty of word puzzles solved in many ways -- for starters, you learn what a rebus is. Mixed with fictitious treasures left by Copernicus are facts of his life and work, as well as mentions of quotes from Moby-Dick, the work of Ptolemy, the travels of Magellan, and European art and artists and their paintings. Lots of European history tidbits are mixed with places visited: a graveyard in Berlin contains the graves of the brothers Grimm; Paris' Place de la Concorde was the site of beheadings with the guillotine; the Arch of Titus in first-century Rome was built for Titus by his brother; and, of course, there's a description of many of the treasures in the Roman Copernican Museum, especially astrolabes.
Wade remembers what Einstein said: "Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world." There's a great sense of awe in this book about invention, discovery, science, and history. The kids always want to know more, and they use teamwork to solve puzzles.
Positive Role Models
The four kids at the center of the story all work together well. Becca is great with languages and history, Wade with science and math, Lily with finding information with her tablet, and Darrell with tactical decisions. Wade's dad makes an effort to protect them from the criminals chasing them, but it's always too little, too late.
Violence & Scariness
A man is choked to death, legs flailing. A woman is kidnapped. Kids are chased by well-organized criminals who carry and use guns, fists, and a crossbow; some suspenseful chases end in one minor injury. There are mentions of boat and auto accidents with casualties or people missing, and a school friend of Roald is pushed down an elevator shaft. A few times Becca mentions a sister who recovered from a grave illness.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Wade has a sweet, innocent crush on Becca.
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"Creeps!" is as bad as it gets.
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Products & Purchases
A few mentions of brands, especially Maserati and Vespa.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A couple mentions of Europe smelling of cigarettes.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Forbidden Stone is the first in the planned 12-book Copernicus Legacy series for tween readers that follows four tweens around the world to safeguard artifacts against an ancient and evil criminal organization. Criminals chase the kids and one adult through major cities in Europe and beyond, wielding guns and a crossbow. One kid gets a minor injury, but some characters around them are killed or kidnapped, or they disappear mysteriously. Getting to the artifacts the characters need involves solving a series of puzzles as they travel; young readers can figure out the puzzles while they take in some European history and facts about early scientific devices and discoveries.
Is It Any Good?
There's a whole lot going on in THE FORBIDDEN STONE, even just to set up the story. How do you get a professor, his son, his stepson, his niece, and their brainy friend who luckily knows a handful of languages all on a plane to Berlin to begin with? And then how do you keep them going when things get really dangerous? The professor's efforts to whisk them to safety seem half-hearted. And how do you take some pretty complex puzzles and make just the right string of conclusions the first time, every time? (Every once in a while you need a red herring.) Also, while we're at it, how would a fencing school race the kids to safety with exactly the equipment they needed immediately on-hand -- such as military-grade encrypted phones -- to keep the organization of supervillains off their trail?
Everything has to click into place too conveniently to keep such a complex story moving. But does The Forbidden Stone need to be that complex right out of the gate? The next 11 books planned for the series offer plenty of pages to build on. Despite some plotting issues, kids who love mystery, travel, word puzzles, and scientific discovery will be drawn to this series immediately.
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.