VOELKEL, Jon & Pamela. Middleworld. (The Jaguar Stones, Book One.) Smith and Kraus. 391p. illus. c2007. 978-1-57525-561-3. $17.95
Max is a classic 14-year-old gamer in Boston. His parents are always on the go as dig-happy archeologists. However, Max’s couch potato days are numbered when the housekeeper gives him a plane ticket to San Xavier where his parents were last seen. They have unwittingly stirred the Mayan forces, perhaps to the brink of global chaos. Max has to find them and save the world---not in front of a screen but in real life. Several people help, and hinder, Max along the way. There’s Uncle Ted, who has been living in the area for years, doing suspiciously well. There’s Lola, a spunky girl who seems to know the ropes locally. There’s the scholar Hermanjilio, who doesn’t believe in the Mayan superstitions until he is caught in their realities. There is Lord Six-Rabbit, who has been dormant for centuries. And then there are the five sacred jaguar stones, which together can raise the dead. Life really is a jungle out there.
The Voelkels have created an adventurous Mayan world---or two---as they link past and present. The characters are a bit “stock” but engaging. The ending is abrupt, but it will leave readers eager for the second book in the series. The occasional drawings add to the story, and the final part of the book includes a detailed glossary, Mayan math and calendar calculations, and an introduction to Mayan writing. Middle schoolers should have great fun with this book. Dr. Lesley Farmer, Lib. Svcs., CSULB, Long Beach, CA.