Pursued by a group of bullies, four children -- Kiri, Jed, Emma and Ethan -- stumble upon a magical island that can transport them across the ocean. The elastic island sends them to Jewel Lagoon, where more trouble awaits the children in the form of a tyrannical leader and his cronies. The gang of young protagonists team up with an unlikely crew of colourful creatures -- including a talking platypus, a giant in mourning, and two vibrant bird-like creatures. But will the unique crew be enough to help the children return home safely?
Jewel Lagoon is the first title in a new series set in the South Pacific. The series has been optioned by Fuzzy Duckling Media, which recently presented the books to major film studios with the ideas of developing it into a feature film or TV series. Work will soon begin on a film script.
The book is aimed at younger independent readers, aged between eight and 12-years-old, it's an action packed and fast paced read. McMillan has pitched to the age perfectly, making it easy but not simple or boring for younger readers. Rich language, especially adverbs, will also help inspire and delight those tackling the book on their own. However, it is a wonderful read aloud story as well, with plenty of voice and delightful characters to animate, expanding the audience further.
The four main characters are relatable and engaging. From fiery Kiri to the shy and bookish Emma, the girls are both strong yet individual characters. Emma's twin Ethan loves gadgets and inventing, while Jed is a born leader and athlete. Each supporting character is also well defined, each adding a little something extra to the plot and action. Olaf the Giant and Pangali the Platypus are particularly adorable, each with their own quirks and strong sense of family.
It was lovely to read an action and adventure story set right here in our backyard, with children that sound and look like our own. Jewel Lagoon will inspire the next generation of Kiwi writers, while also appealing to those readers who start to lose momentum around that age, the so called 'reluctant' reader.
It's a fast paced, exciting, and original story that keeps you entertained from the beginning to the very end. I look forward to seeing what adventures await the foursome in the sequel, due out later this year.
Reviewer: Rebekah Fraser
Duckling Publishing, RRP $19.99
Distributed by South Pacific Books in NZ
Distributed by Beaglier Books in Australia