Poptropica, vol 1: Mystery of the Map & Poptropica, vol 2: The Lost Expedition

Thursday, September 15, 2016  By  Kristen Lawson     No comments

Poptropica

In Volume 1: The Mystery of the Map, a boy named Oliver, his friend Jorge, and his sister Mya are on a hot air balloon ride with their pilot, Octavian (their parents are in a second balloon). Octavian suddenly but purposefully steers the kids’ balloon off course and they crash-land on a mysterious, tropical island. The island is full of animals and people thought lost to history, such as saber-toothed cats, dodo birds, and—most alarming of all—Vikings! A mysterious, interactive map the kids have found helps them out of a few scrapes and enables them to find a ship and sail away from the island.

In Volume 2: The Lost Expedition, Mya and the boys have been sailing the ship for only a couple of hours when they come across a frozen wasteland. There, while trying to escape a murderous polar bear, they encounter a stranded 18th-century sailing ship called H.M.S. Terror and her crew. As everyone tries to escape the frigid land and sail away home, the kids begin to make connections between Octavian (who has tracked them to the new location, intent on getting the map back) and other adults they have seen, all with cryptic tattoos on their arms.

This series is a fast-paced, original fantasy adventure with a solid mystery driving the plot. Both volumes will have readers asking questions, some of which are answered later in the story, others presumably left for further volumes. However, the books do a good job of ensuring that the readers are never more confused than the characters are. The plot, while maintaining a breathtaking pace, never moves so quickly that it becomes erratic or hard to follow.

The three main characters, Oliver, Jorge, and Mya, are developed enough to keep a reader interested in them without relying on in-depth backstories that might stagnate the plot. Oliver is easygoing but sharp-eyed and sharp-minded. Jorge is a worried person who provides a bit of bumbling comic relief. Mya develops into the group’s leader, keeping everyone together and making decisions quickly and efficiently.

In Poptropica, all the people are drawn in a cartoonish way with bulging eyes and large heads on tiny bodies. This makes everyone look perpetually astounded, lightening the mood even when the action puts the characters in life-threatening situations. Background art is comparatively realistic and rich in detail. This is a smart choice that conveys the importance of the kids’ surroundings to the plot, and emphasizes the strangeness of the places they are travelling through. Panels are arrayed conventionally, in a straightforward manner, increasing ease of reading and understanding for a younger audience or kids who have reading difficulties. Note: the ARCs I used for review purposes were not yet rendered in color, though the final volumes will be; therefore, I can’t comment on the use of color in the artwork.

Adventure, fantasy, or mystery fans ages 8-12 will enjoy these short but action-packed stories. Kids who have read all the Geronimo Stilton graphic novels should also like these for the travel and mystery elements. Kids who like James Burks’s Bird & Squirrel books for their breakneck pacing might also enjoy the Poptropica books.

Poptropica: Mystery of the Map, vol. 1
by Jack Chabert
Art by Kory Merritt
ISBN: 9781419720673
Abrams, 2016
Publisher Age Rating: 8-12

Poptropica: The Lost Expedition, vol. 2
by Jack Chabert
Art by Kory Merritt
ISBN: 9781419721298
Abrams, 2016
Publisher Age Rating: 8-12

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