Monday, December 10, 2012

Middleworld by J&P Voelkel

The world is going to end on 12/21/12! Actually, no, it isn't. But the Mayans said it would! Actually, no, they didn't. But still, now is the perfect time for you to read Middleworld (Book 1 of the Jaguar Stones) by husband and wife team J&P Voelkel!

 From Goodreads: An epic adventure that brings together ancient history and modern adolescent angst - as it pits a pampered, pizza-eating, 21st century Boston teenager against the Death Lords of the Maya Underworld. In Book One: "Middleworld," 14-year-old Max Murphy is trying to survive in the perilous rainforest. But poisonous snakes and man-eating jaguars are the least of his problems. It seems the jungle is alive with the spirits of the Ancient Maya. Even worse, his parents have been taken prisoner in the Maya underworld and it's up to him to rescue them. Oh, and - no pressure - but the world will end in five days' time unless Max can win his battle against the villainous Lords of Death. Into this thrilling, and sometimes spine-chilling, adventure story is woven a huge amount of detail about the Maya and life in the rainforest. The authors, have drawn on the latest research to present possibly the most accurate picture of the Maya world in children's literature.

My Two Cents: There is so much action and adventure here it's hard to know where to begin! The setup of this book was great--we grow and learn with Max in a way that doesn't feel forced at all. And the plot is so fast-paced and engaging that kids gobble up the (subtle and well-placed) educational parts as well. In keeping with Mayan culture, there issue of human sacrifice definitely comes up, but of course no humans are sacrificed in our storyline. Note to educators: I've heard that these authors do amazing school visits...

Grade Level: 5-8

Additional Resources:
The Jaguar Stones website, with really outstanding teacher resources that include writing Maya glyphs, Maya math, and a FREE LESSON PLAN CD
A great Mayan Kids site that explores the people, places, and beliefs of Mayan civilization
Howler monkey photos, facts, and videos
The Rainforest Alliance has great games, virtual storybooks, and plant and animal info for kids as well as lesson plans for teachers designed for every grade level.

More to Read:
The beginning of another worldwide adventure series for the same age group: The 39 Clues: The Maze of Bones by Rick Riordan
A series for slightly younger readers about another fun and adventurous boy with the fate of a whole civilization on his shoulders: Elliot and the Goblin War by Jennifer Nielsen
A slightly more sci-fi take on the theme of a boy who solves his family issues, saves a society, and learns a lot about himself in the process: What Came from the Stars by Gary D. Schmidt

The ancient Mayans were a very scientifically advanced culture. Check back Thursday for a science activity that illustrates one of the tools they developed!

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