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Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

*Middleworld (Jaguar Stones Trilogy, Book One)* by J. & P. Voelkel- young adult book review
Middleworld (Jaguar Stones Trilogy, Book One)
by J. & P. Voelkel
Grades 7+ 400 pages Smith & Sons September 2007 Hardcover    

Your typical run-of-the-mill summer vacation is definitely NOT in store for Max Murphy, the fourteen-year-old Boston native and reluctant hero of The Jaguar Stones, Book One: Middleworld by the excellent married writing duo of Jon and Pamela Voelkel. His archaeologist parents, Frank and Carla, have run off to a Mayan dig in San Xavier, dooming Max to the fate of spending a few weeks of his summer at Camp Wilderness, like his friend Lenny. Max doesn’t want to go, but he doesn’t have much choice:
“Didn’t you do any research on this place?” said Max indignantly. “They call it Brat Camp! It’s like a prison with cookouts.”
Little does Max know that he won’t be doomed to Camp Wilderness at all. Fate, their Maya housekeeper, Zia, and the Mayan gods have a summer of action and adventure in store for him. When he comes downstairs for breakfast one Friday morning, “a week and a day since his parents had left,” there is, to his surprise, an airplane ticket to San Xavier with his name on it for a “flight that was departing in a few hours’ time.” He asks Zia where the ticket came from, and she mysteriously answers him that “They tell me to buy it.” He asks her if she means his parents, but she doesn’t confirm this directly:
“They say you are special,” said Zia with a shrug, as if this was the most baffling statement that she had ever heard. Then she reached into her apron pocket and pulled out Max’s passport.

“Take it,” she said. “Go! You must not keep them waiting.”
Nobody from his family meets Max at the San Xavier City airport. It’s rainy and dismal, and the uniformed official at the Immigration Desk does not help lighten Max’s spirits. All Max wants to do is to reunite with his parents. The official recognizes their names and tells Max to give them a message when he sees them:
“Tell them from me,” said the official, as he cracked his knuckles menacingly, “that they are not welcome here. They may have procured the necessary permits” - he rubbed his thumb and forefinger together to suggest a bribe - “but some things are better left alone.”
He’s eventually picked up from the airport by a small wiry man holding a sign with Max’s name on it called Oscar Poot. Oscar takes him to stay at Max’s Uncle Ted’s mansion in the town of Aguas Muertes and tells him he last spoke to Max’s parents “four days ago. They were calling on the satellite phone from the Temple of Ix Chel.” The weather’s been rainy, there’s been flooding, and ominously he lets Max know that “I can’t help feeling that your parents are mixed up in something...dangerous.”

What would you do if you were a teenager stuck in a foreign country not knowing the language, your parents are missing, and you have to stay with an uncle who you discover is a smuggler of Mayan artifacts? What’s more, you find out you’ve been summoned there by the Mayan gods to bring together five legendary Jaguar Stones of different colors to try to stop the Lords of Death and the descendant of Friar Diego DeLanda (the man who burned all of the Maya’s books and written history), Count Antonio DeLanda.

Fortunately for Max, he has a resourceful and beautiful Mayan girl, Lola, at his side to assist him, as well as the resurrected Lord Six-Rabbit, one of the greatest Mayan Kings who ever lived, and his mother. Unfortunately, Lord Six-Rabbit and his mother have no better bodies to possess and use than those of baboons. Baboons don’t make for the most impressive shapes for warriors to take, but they have to make do with what they have available – and the situation does add a lot to the humor to the novel. Having Lord Six-Rabbit call herself Lady Coco and distracting evil-doers by farting is one comic example that keeps Middleworld from taking itself too seriously.

J. & P. Voelkel have written a fantastic beginning to what looks to be an excellent series full of action and adventure for teens and middle-school kids. What’s more, it’s educational: along with a page-turning, suspenseful story, readers learn various Mayan words and about the culture and life of the Maya Indians. Six million Mayans are still alive, disproving the notion that they all were abducted by aliens or simply disappeared into the jungles. The Jaguar Stones, Book One: Middleworld is a novel that both guys and girls should like and get a lot of enjoyment from. Highly recommended - I’m looking forward to the sequel, The Jaguar Stones: Book Two, El Castillo.

Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

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  Douglas R. Cobb/2007 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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