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The Emerald City
(Spencer the Adventurer)

by Stephen S. Keeney


Stephen S. Keeney has created a wonderful new adventure series for tweeners. His Spencer the Adventurer series begins with The Emerald City, a book that introduces 12-year-old Spencer, his 9-year-old sister Liz Loo, and the three other members of the Lake Union Adventurers (Maddy, Duber Dave, and Babu, a Sherpa exchange student). These kids formed a club to explore their city, Seattle, usually by kayaking, biking, or hiking somewhere. They never thought their outdoor skills would ever be called upon for more than fun until the weather started changing.

For several weeks, Seattle was plagued by non-stop rain. Normally, rain in the Pacific Northwest isn't unusual. In fact, it can sometimes be daily, but it stops eventually. Something is definitely wrong. When television broadcasts are interrupted by a mysterious voice claiming responsibility for all the rain, and providing a mysterious code that could lead to the culprit, the Adventurers rally. While Spencer's mom and Maddy's dad, who are scientists, embark on an expedition to Mt. Rainer to investigate the heavy snow cover there that may also be man-made, the kids put their heads together and begin to decipher the coded message that leads to more adventures trying to find four pieces of a map. All of this is curiously connected to history and a silver baby rattle bearing a royal crest.

Spencer and his friends are remarkably capable kids with unusual but strong skills, such as rock climbing and scuba diving. They also are able to think on their feet and look out for each other. I really liked them!

I found the plot fun and full of geographic details. The author's extensive knowledge of the world is based on real experience. He grew up in Massachusetts, was educated in Virginia and in Salzburg, Austria, backpacked in Alaska, and lived in Los Angeles, Seattle, Hong Kong, and Chicago. There are nuances here in description and attitude toward the Pacific Northwest in particular, that obviously come from direct experience, and not just from research. These geographic touches, I think, will mark Keeney's Spencer the Adventurer series as unique—plus it's just a fun read!

The Book

Zumaya Threshold
February 2, 2009
Trade paperback
1934135852 / 978-1934135853
Tweener Fiction
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The Reviewer

Janie Franz
Reviewed 2009
© 2009