Looking for a read-aloud packed with adventure and a little taste of steampunk? The Expeditioners and the Treasure of Drowned Man’s Canyon by S.S. Taylor might be a perfect pick. My son and I were drawn in by the cover (art by Katherine Roy) and stayed for the story, which is set in some alternative time where, as steampunk often tells us, things went awry with computers and the timeline of “us” has changed.
The steampunk element is light here, though. Mechanical horses, and robotic limbs, undiscovered lands located off the map, and a crazy strange bird that has clearly been the result of some technological experiment … these are in the story, but the plot itself is very human-centered. A family of three children (Zander, Kit and MJ), orphaned after their famous explorer father has died in some other part of the world, discover a map. Each has a certain skill that complements the other. (It’s nice when that happens with orphaned siblings)
And we all know what happens when orphans discover a hidden map with secret codes left by a missing parent. Adventure, and the search for treasure and mysteries to their father’s increasingly mysterious death, lead the kids forward, even as they are being tracked by the government agents who want the map and who want to learn the whereabouts of a famous treasure hoard. Soon, the kids and their bird are on the run.
The tale is told well, with lots of character development and strange discoveries (what they find in the canyon is beyond gold) and the moral obligations of keeping secrets from a world bent on exploration of undiscovered lands and the harvesting of natural resources for its own gain. British Empire, anyone? Taylor, the writer, keeps us engaged with cliffhangers.
I would recommend The Expeditioners and the Treasure of Drowned Man’s Canyon to middle school and upper elementary readers. It’s a solid read-aloud, if a bit lengthy. My son and I have the second book in the series (The Secret of King Triton’s Lair) waiting in our library for pick-up today.
We’re off on another adventure ….
Peace (off the map but in our world),