Lug the Wooly Mammoth, Martie the Passenger Pigeon, Scratch the Saber Toothed Tiger, and Quito the Collins Poison Frog make up a special group known as ROAR – the Rescue Ops Acquisition Rangers. ROAR exists to protect environmental artifacts, especially those that have become exposed by climate change. Their leader, Dr. Z, has just sent them on their first real mission, to rescue a rare horn from a Siberian unicorn, an extinct creature similar to a rhinoceros, which may have inspired the legend of the unicorn. The horn is thought to possess medicinal qualities which could be squandered if it falls into the wrong hands or is lost to the melting effects of climate change. ROAR travels via futuristic vehicles like a hovercraft and an all-terrain mobile support vehicle called the MoSUV. They also have a computerized guide named GAIA which shares facts with them during their mission.
At first the story seems fairly straightforward. The group embarks on their mission with little trouble apart from being followed through Siberia by a mysterious cave bear on a motorcycle. However, astute readers may wonder why no origin story is presented for this group. It is also perplexing why these animals are alive and well even though they are members of extinct species. The cave bear who finally catches up to ROAR knows the truth, and a twist in the plot will surely surprise readers. Future volumes in the series will undoubtedly provide more adventure as “The Extincts” find their place in a world that was never made for them.
The Extincts: Quest for the Unicorn Horn has a lot to delight middle grade readers. The story is action-packed, with an interesting illustration scheme that’s dynamic and attention-grabbing. Scott Magoon makes each character distinctive from the others and from the human world around them. Young readers will enjoy the characters’ ROAR uniforms, gadgets, and vehicles. There are typically two to three colors used per page, but the colors alternate frequently, making the book visually interesting and reflecting the different settings of the story. There is also plenty of age-appropriate silly humor—Lug the wooly mammoth has to go to the bathroom through much of the story and opens a new cave tunnel with a giant fart.
The book also teaches a great deal of science, especially about the effects of climate change on the arctic regions, including melting permafrost, collapsing buildings, and habitat loss. The end matter Includes an experiment you can try at home with supercooled liquid. Other features in the end matter are information about all the extinct species featured, a glossary of terms, more about the Siberian setting of the Batagaika Crater, and things readers can do to help the earth. The Extincts is a strong new series for middle grade readers, and its opening volume, Quest for the Unicorn Horn is as entertaining as it is educational.
The Extincts, vol. 1: Quest for the Unicorn Horn
By Scott Magoon
Abrams Amulet, 2022
Publisher Age Rating: 8-12
NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11)