Secrets of the Magical Medallions misses mark

The Secrets of the Magical Medallions: The Treasure Hunters Club Book 1 by Sean McCartney; published by Mountainland Publishing, Inc., Ogden, Utah, 2010; 160 pages.

Tommy Reed has a taste for adventure.  When your uncle is one of the world’s premiere treasure hunters, and when your home life is less than idyllic, perhaps the allure of mysteries and treasures is inevitable.  So Tommy created the Treasure Hunter’s Club along with fellow middle school classmates Chris, Jackson and Shannon.  However, treasure and mystery are scarce commodities in the club’s community.  That is, until Tommy’s Uncle Jack sends a medallion to his nephew.  The medallion, Uncle Jack, and the Treasure Hunter’s Club become entangled in a battle between good and evil that dates back centuries.  When the epic battle is fought in the Treasure Hunter’s Club’s backyard, all the mystery and magic of the medallion will test the courage and intelligence of everyone involved.

The idea of an adventure that combines Hardy Boys Mysteries with Indiana Jones and National Treasure was the author’s inspiration to get reluctant readers to enjoy novels.  Hooray for targeting this often overlooked audience!  McCartney has mixed mystery and magic in a tale that reaches beyond the backyard.  He wisely chose to create a slim volume; the 160 page book will be readily picked up by reluctant readers.  I am impressed that the author makes a teacher’s guide available online, to encourage the readers to delve deeper than the information provided in the book.  He incorporates lessons in language arts, social studies and art to further encourage the reader’s involvement in the story.  While this is a nice debut novel that might work for the intended audience, I would argue that it would be highly interesting to low-reading-level older readers as well, even through eighth or ninth grade.

Unfortunately, I think the abundance of dialogue, and subsequently too many dialogue tags, disrupt the flow of this mysterious adventure.  In fact, the preponderance of storytelling is done through dialogue.  Sometimes that works in developing a story, if the descriptive passages are rich.  In this case, the non-dialogue often acted as a transition between conversations rather than carrying the story forward.  Sometimes information was included that didn’t help the story progress.  Additionally, I had a hard time following three storylines at the beginning, although they all come together with cohesion in the end.  One of the three plots, the back story about the origins of the medallions, was introduced and then woven into the other two stories.  Transitioning between the plotlines made following the action choppy and sometimes jolting.  For example, in chapter 23, there are no less than six jumps between stories, some only a few sentences long.  Remembering who was doing what was confusing and tripped the pace of an exciting development in the plot.   For those reasons, I knocked the review down to a quality rating of 3.

Why did I settle on a quality rating of two?  The copy of the book I read was riddled with typos (“emaculate” rather than “immaculate,” for example) and layout gaffes (line breaks mid-paragraph, lack of paragraph indentations).  I would hesitate to recommend this book with these errors to a child.   Additionally, the amount of dialogue created too much white space on the pages—I almost felt like I was reading a play rather than a novel.  With better editing, this would be a rated as a “3” on the quality scale.

Teachers, who may want to use this as a classroom read, can find a lesson plan at http://www.treasurehuntersclubbook.com/THC-Teachers-Guide.pdf.

3P     2Q     Grade Level: 4-7 (high interest-low reading level up through grade 9 or 10)

Cover Art: Mystical lights emanating from a turbulent sea is the background for the title, which appears to have been created with multiple effects in PhotoShop.  I don’t think the cover hits the target audience; it is not descriptive enough for the upper elementary and middle school readers.

From Reading List: The Way It Could Be (Science Fiction or Fantasy)

(Note: A free copy of this book was provided by the author for me to review for Stories for Children Magazine. I include the review here.  Please note that all books I review for Stories for Children Magazine are donated to a local tutoring program for homeless and marginalized families.)

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