Thursday, October 9, 2014

The 8th Continent

The 8th Continent
Matt London
Penguin, 2014  217 pgs
Grades 3-6
Science Fiction/Adventure

Wealthy siblings, Rick and Evie, travel around the world with their eccentric environmentalist/inventor father and crow-like robot tutor when not attending their exclusive Swiss private school.  This is the earth of the future, where many species of animals have become extinct and the planet is covered with garbage and entire species are vanishing.  A wild-life vigilante, Dad is constantly butting heads with the world government, Winterpole. eventually getting himself arrested and sent to the high-security "Prison at the Pole".  Rick and Evie take it upon themselves to track down Dad's former college, Doctor Evan Grant, in order to recreate a mechanism that can transport the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (a real thing!) into a livable 8th continent.  Enter the evil Nemesis, Vesuvia, who wants control of the invention to convert the 8th continent to a "new Miami" with shopping malls and bling.  Evie and Rick travel the globe in their flying tree/ship, track down Dr. Grant, and get hold of the invention.  Unfortunately, before they can make the machine work, Vesuvia arrives with a multitude of armed soldiers. Will the machine succeed in creating the 8th continent?  Will Rick and Evie overcome Vesuvia in dictating the continent's future?  Will Dad ever be released from prison?  These and other important questions will be answered as you quickly turn the pages to the book's thrilling conclusion!

First in a projected series, The 8th Continent feels in structure and format like The 39 Clues series or Spirit Animals, although it will be written exclusively by London, as opposed to various authors as in the two scholastic series.  The writing is formulaic, yet written as to create excitement and to keep kids pushing on to the end.  The action never stops and the technology is cool.  Reluctant readers, especially, will be drawn to this book.  Having both a male and female character will increase the range of the book to appeal to both sexes.  The main characters are charactertures and the villainous girl is something straight out of a comic book.  There is also a lot of violence, but it is also cartoon-like and will not scare even sensitive readers.  Readers won't care that this is not great fiction.  They will eat it up and beg for the next installment (scheduled for release February, 2015).  On the cover of the book it reads "Build It.  Run It.  Rule It." underneath the title and the publicity advertises an internet component.  I assumed that kids would be able to go on-line and create their own continent, maybe using some sort of code hidden within the book.  This was not the case.  When directed to the book's website there is a simple game that is suppose to lead you to a sneak-peek of the next installment of the series, once you complete it. After wasting twenty minutes mastering the game, no sneak-peek was revealed.  The book was officially released two weeks ago and I don't think the website has been updated as promised, which made the internet component disappointing. The 8th Continent is underlayed with educational content in the form of quizzes that the heroes are subjected to by their robot tutor and environmental messages.  It is a cautionary tale for our future, as earth is being taken over by garbage.  What a fantasy to create an 8th continent and have a "do-over".  If only we could...

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