Jaguar Stones Series by J and P Voelkel

I’ve spent the past few weeks immersed in the world of the Maya, thanks to authors J and P Voelkel, who won my School & Library Planning and Publicity Package for the KidLitCares auction to raise money for Superstorm Sandy relief.  And what a gift it’s been to visit that world!

MIDDLEWORLD launches the series- here’s the official book description from the publisher.

Fourteen-year-old Max Murphy is looking forward to a family vacation. But his parents, both archaeologists and Maya experts, announce a change in plan. They must leave immediately for a dig in the tiny Central American country of San Xavier. Max will go to summer camp. Max is furious. When he’s mysteriously summoned to San Xavier, he thinks they’ve had a change of heart.

Upon his arrival, Max’s wild adventure in the tropical rainforests of San Xavier begins. During his journey, he will unlock ancient secrets and meet strangers who are connected to him in ways he could never have imagined. For fate has delivered a challenge of epic proportions to this pampered teenager. Can Max rescue his parents from the Maya Underworld and save the world from the Lords of Death, who now control the power of the Jaguar Stones in their villainous hands? The scene is set for a roller-coaster ride of suspense and terror, as the good guys and the bad guys face off against a background of haunted temples, zombie armies, and even human sacrifice!

The truth is…they had me at “wild adventure” and “ancient secrets” but this book offers so much more than that. Kids who haven’t already met Max will love his jaunty attitude and the messes he gets himself into.  They’ll love the danger (on just about every page!) and the mystery of the rainforest and shady figures who inhabit it.

Their teachers and librarians will love the rich curriculum connections this book provides.  Rainforest ecosystems? Check. Ancient cultures and myths? Check.  If ever there were a title that made it easy to teach the Common Core Standards for Grades 4-8, it’s this one. As part of the Voelkels’ KidLitCares package, I put together a discussion and resource guide for using MIDDLEWORLD in the classroom.  Here’s an example of the CCS-aligned activities:

Historical Research: Read the online PBS feature article about Friar Diego de Landa, one of the real-life historical figures mentioned in MIDDLEWORLD:

PBS – When Worlds Collide: The Untold Story of the Americas after Columbus –

 In Chapter 2 of MIDDLEWORLD, Oscar tells Max, “Diego de Landa was the curse of the Maya. He tortured us, he burned our books, he told the world we were savages.”  Based on the PBS article, is this a fair characterization of Landa? Why or why not?  Use details from the PBS feature to support your opinion.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.7.9 Compare and contrast a fictional portrayal of a time, place, or character and a historical account of the same period as a means of understanding how authors of fiction use or alter history.

 MIDDLEWORLD was featured on the Today Show a while back when it was selected for Al Roker’s Book Club. You can see that video here.
 And you won’t want to miss the Voelkels’ website, where there are more resources and links and freebies for teachers than I’ve ever seen anywhere. Really. Go check it out.