If you have been following my blog for any length of time then you know that I have a special place in my heart for books that focus on Mesoamerica/Mesoamerican culture. When I saw that Egmont was publishing The Jaguar Stones, Book One: Middleworld by J&P Voelkel, I was very excited. A combination of Percy Jackson and Mayan culture? Sign me up! Thankfully, I was not disappointed. This is a fantastic adventure book that I highly recommend to middle school and YA readers!
Max is looking forward to a summer vacation in Italy. But when his academic parents come home and inform him of a sudden change of plans- they will be canceling the Italian vacation and taking a research trip to the (fictional) country of San Xavier. A seemingly sudden change of heart sends Max to meet them in San Xavier a few weeks later. Max arrives in the rainy country of San Xavier only to find that his parents have disappeared. Mysterious Uncle Ted becomes Max’s de facto guardian, and the search for his parents begins. At the time of their disappearance, they were exploring an ancient Mayan pyramid deep in the rain forest. While things get stranger and stranger, Max soon finds himself lost in the rain forest that may be responsible for his parents’ apparent death.
Love, love, love this book! Like Riordan’s Percy Jackson, The Jaguar Stones is a rollicking adventure. Along the way the reader is immersed in Mayan culture. I know in my own experience, Mesoamerican culture is frequently skipped over in ancient history curriculums so students will be very interested in the mythology and culture strewn throughout the story. At the same time, Max is easy to relate to. But my own favorite character is Lola, a Mayan girl who Max meets in his search for his missing parents. (Yes, there are still Mayans!) Lola is spunky, brave, and a little fresh at times. A great female character for a great adventure.
Another great aspect of the book is the appendix at the end. Including calendar explanations and a recipe, it really enhanced the story. The Mayan culture is fascinating and the Voelkel’s expertise really shines through in the text. Hopefully, this series will catch on and today’s students will become more interested in Mesoamerican culture. Come on- in many ways they were far more advanced than their European counterparts! I am eagerly looking forward to the next installment in the The Jaguar Stones series!
*review copy courtesy of publisher