The Race Across Anaconda Swamp

West Margin. (A Challenge Island STEAM Adventure: Bk. 2). May 2022. 144p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781513128719; pap. $6.99. ISBN 9781513128702.
Gr 1-3–In this follow-up to The Bridge to Sharktooth Island, optimistic Joy, cautious Daniel, and studious Kimani find themselves transported once again to a magical island where they have to solve a series of puzzles to escape the middle of the rainforest before darkness falls. They’re dazzled by the forest’s biodiversity and are delayed by a baby monkey in distress. Will they be able to escape in time and find out why they keep getting sent to this island? The pacing and dialogue of this short chapter book are tight, and the characterization is consistent, though not deep. The story itself is engaging, educational, and peppered with cute illustrations that show Joy and Daniel as white, and Kimani as Black. However, the stakes of the overall series remain unclear and the lessons are repeated one too many times. The tension of the continuous trips to Sharktooth Island builds so slowly that readers may lose interest. Supplementary materials at the back include STEAM projects and fun facts introduced by the main characters that a science-loving child will enjoy.
VERDICT A fun purchase for the easygoing young reader in love with animals and books in “The Magic Treehouse” series.

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