I came across this fantastic series through Reedsy and was thrilled to get to read more than just one of its component books. The series captures my enjoyment of both mystery and travel and wraps it in a delightful and educational package. Younger middle grade readers who enjoy reading several books with the same characters will find these to be enjoyably well written and are sure to learn something along the way. Even adults will learn something new about the cities featured in these stories and will be inspired to investigate the landmarks as they travel in real life. Please see my reviews of the first four books below!
The Secret of the Snallygaster
The Lander siblings Tara and Neil love traveling the world with their parents. Whether their dad is giving a lecture or their mom is investigating local cuisine, there is no shortage of destinations for them to explore. This time, the Landers are in Washington, D.C., and they are looking forward to learning as much as they can about the vast history found in the capital of the United States. When they discover a mysterious letter hidden at the grave of Great Uncle Eugene, the children are given clues that guide them to notable landmarks around the city. It is up to the siblings to work together to fulfill their Great Uncle Eugene’s dying wish before time runs out. Please see my full review here.
The Race to Phar Lap’s Saddle
The Lander siblings Tara and Neil love traveling the world with their parents. Whether their dad is giving a lecture or their mom is investigating local cuisine, there is no shortage of destinations for them to explore. This time, the Landers are in Melbourne, Australia, and they are looking forward to exploring the beautiful and vibrant city once their dad has completed the research he has come to conduct. When Phar Lap’s saddle, the object their father specifically came to study, mysteriously disappears, the children find themselves following clues that guide them to notable landmarks around Melbourne. It is up to the siblings to work together to find the missing artifact before time runs out. Please see my full review here.
The Men from B.A.G.E.L.
Neil and Tara Lander and their parents are off to New York City for New Year’s Eve, the lucky winners of a raffle that was more than it seemed. Shortly after arriving in the Big Apple, the Lander family is intercepted by mysterious, uniformed men who whisk them to a secret hideout and give everyone unique, breakfast-themed code names. The Men from B.A.G.E.L., as they are known, are in pursuit of a nefarious villain who is planning to wreak havoc on the world at large. Despite their extensive knowledge, however, the B.A.G.E.L. representatives are no match for Owzy, and it is up to the Landers to get to the bottom of the mystery before time runs out. Please see my full review here.
Framed in Hollywood
Even more exciting than a trip to Los Angeles is the unexpected opportunity to help a famous actress prove her innocence in a crime she did not commit. The Lander family is energized by the fast pace and big stars found in Hollywood, and when they find themselves befriending starlet Sally Sinclair, they cannot help but go along for the ride. But fame is not enough to protect Sally from being framed for stealing a priceless painting, and it is up to the Lander family to track down the evidence to clear Sally’s name. Please see my full review here.
These books are excellent adventure stories for middle grade readers. Succinct chapters and an accessible design keep readers engaged in the narrative while history and cultural information are easily absorbed through the cleverly executed delivery. Black and white illustrations are found throughout the books, offering both a visual respite for newly confident middle grade readers as well as comprehension support. Each moment flows seamlessly into the next, encouraging readers to progress steadily through each story.
Though the Lander family is of ambiguous origin, references to soccer as football suggest that they hail from somewhere outside of the United States. However, they are depicted as an upper-middle class, jet-setting family with fair skin and a neutral accent, so the narratives are widely accessible. Presented like a middle-grade version of The Da Vinci Code, each clue is generic enough to be initially obscure but ultimately leads to locations that guide readers through each of the featured cities. Whether readers have visited the specific locales or not, they will feel as though they have walked in the shoes of the Lander family by the end of these adventures.
To increase the educational component of this series, maps ranging in focus from the world in its entirety to the specific locations the children are exploring are found on both ends of these narratives. Several pages of facts and comparisons are included at the end of each book, further describing historic and cultural components of the featured locales. This series of stories follows a similar structure from one to the next and is a fabulous selection for young readers with a desire to explore the wider world. This series is a highly recommended addition to libraries for middle grade readers.
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