Secret codes, lost landmarks, and hidden clues in real locations.
This first book in the National Parks Mystery Series takes young readers, ages 7 to 12, on a fast-paced adventure set in the heart of the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.
Before Jake’s grandfather died, he was on the trail of a centuries-old mystery. And he has entrusted that mystery to Jake, leaving behind a set of hidden codes, riddles, coordinates, and other clues that lead Jake and his friends on a scavenger hunt through ten of America’s most treasured national parks.
In this illustrated and page-turning adventure, young readers will develop a love for reading while learning about natural history, wildlife, ecology and conservation, integrity, character, and friendship.
This was such fun middle grade read! I am such a fan of national parks and the outdoors and mysteries that I was excited to receive an ARC. I am very picky about the ARCs I choose to read; I get too nervous since I can be so wishy-washy about finishing books at times. However, I was super excited about this one and it hooked me from the very beginning.
Jake’s family is setting off on a multi-month road trip through the national parks and while that is already exciting for Jake, it gets even better. While they are at his grandmother’s house saying goodbye before the trip, he receives a gift that his deceased grandfather arranged for him. A scrapbook of photos, which Jake soon learns contains a secret code, and the start of a mysterious scavenger hunt.
Jake’s family is sharing their trip with Jake’s cousin Wes and his family, and also long time family friends and their daughter Amber. Jake at first doesn’t want to share this special hunt with Wes and Amber; for him, it is something special that his grandfather designed for Jake and he wants to keep that close. But after the group of parents surprise the three kids with their own summer project, he learns it is easier and more fun to work on the mystery as a group.
Jake, Wes, and Amber surprise them with an opportunity of a lifetime – the space and time to explore and hike on their own in the parks. This works out well for the kids since they have their own secret mission and that would be hard to do under the eye of the parents – especially since one of the first clues Jake receives is rather cryptic and hints at some danger! The kids are required to set up an itinerary, including the projected time they will be back, and present it to the parents the night before the hike for approval. They also are instructed on the three biggest dangers when hiking, how to avoid them, and what the ten essentials are that they should take on any hike. I loved this part of the book, and how practical skills were included within the story.
This book had a fast paced plot, that I imagine will hold the attention of young readers. I know that it held mine and when it ended I was not ready, I wanted more story!
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I love the sense of adventure, the mystery, the history and nature, and all the opportunities for taking little “rabbit trails”. I can see readers wanting to learn more about so many different topics – ciphers, morse code, wildlife skills, mountain biking, history, the list goes on and on. I am looking forward to following this adventurous mystery to the end!
You can find the author Aaron Johnson and series information via any of these social channels:
GoodReads Profile: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/20691108
I received this book free from the author in exchange for an honest review.