The Copernicus Legacy, Book 1: The Forbidden Stone Book Poster Image

The Copernicus Legacy, Book 1: The Forbidden Stone

(i)

 

Complex globetrotting mystery has science, history, puzzles.

What parents need to know

Educational value

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.

Positive messages

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

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.

Sex

Wade has a sweet, innocent crush on Becca.

Language

"Creeps!" is as bad as it gets.

Consumerism

A few mentions of brands, especially Maserati and Vespa.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

A couple mentions of Europe smelling of cigarettes.

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.

What's the story?

Wade and his stepbrother Darrell are hanging out at the University of Texas observatory waiting for their dad/stepdad, professor Roald Kaplan, when a strange coded message pops up on the lab computer. Wade can't help but look at the email address; it's from Dr. Kaplan's old teacher, Dr. Heinrich Vogel, in Germany. Some serious word sleuthing reveals quite a riddle about protecting the \"Magisters Legacy\" and finding \"the twelve relics.\" What could it mean? Dr. Kaplan calls his teacher in Germany to find out, only to discover that he's dead, the funeral planned for the next day. The stars seem to align when Wade's cousin Lily and her friend Becca come to stay unexpectedly -- Lily's mom got the flu and canceled their trip to Paris. Somehow Lily talks Dr. Kaplan into transferring the unused tickets and taking them all to the funeral in Berlin. But do the stars align in their favor? Heinrich's housekeeper insists he was murdered, and big black SUVs full of thugs show up at the cemetery. A little more sleuthing reveals more about Heinrich's riddle and exactly what the 12 relics may be, which puts them all in much more danger.

Is it any good?

QUALITY

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.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about Lily and her tablet. What does she find out in a hurry? Can you find information that fast? How does she find information when she has to give the tablet up?

  • What did you enjoy learning while reading The Forbidden Stone? Was it the word puzzles? The early scientific discoveries? The facts about Europe? Where can you find out more?

  • Will you keep reading the Copernicus Legacy series? If so, what do you like best about it? What do you hope to find out in the next installment?

Book details

Author:Tony Abbott
Illustrator:Bill Perkins
Genre:Mystery
Topics:Adventures, History, Science and nature
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Katherine Tegen Books
Publication date:January 7, 2014
Number of pages:432
Publisher's recommended age(s):8 - 12
Available on:Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, Kindle

This review of The Copernicus Legacy, Book 1: The Forbidden Stone was written by

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