Stuck in the Stone Age/ Digging Up Danger – written by written by Geoff Rodkey and Jacqueline West, illustrated by Hatem Aly

     Stuck in the Stone Age (The Story Pirates Present) – written by Geoff Rodkey, illustrated by Hatem Aly, A Yearling Book, 9780593123783, 2018




Digging Up Danger (The Story Pirates Present) – written by Jacqueline West, illustrated by Hatem Aly, A Yearling Book, 9780593123799, 2019

Format: Paperback 

Rating:  1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4

Genre: Science Fiction (Stuck in the Stone Age), Mystery (Digging Up Danger)

What did you like about the book?  In this series, kids submit story ideas, and some of them are chosen to be turned into a full novel. This set up for the series is inspiring, especially because there’s an introduction by the kid writer at the beginning of each book telling us a little bit about their life and their story ideas. The actual story idea submitted by the kid writer is included at the end of the book (so it doesn’t spoil the ending), and I really appreciated seeing how the kid’s ideas really formed the root of the story, but were fleshed out with more details. In each book, the story is about 170 pages long, and then the Story Creation Zone is a 80-ish page addendum to the book, explaining how to create a story of the same genre (sci-fi, mystery, or fantasy). In an easy-to-understand way, readers learn about elements of a good story with many references to the story they just read. Elements include genre, hook, characters (protagonist, villain, culprit, suspect, hero), problem, solution, setting, research, pacing, dialogue, word choice, obstacles, clues, plot twist, quest, and more. I also like that some graphic organizers were included for kids to use to get started on brainstorming the characters, setting, or plot. Small black and white illustrations throughout the book label different story elements and point readers to explore more in the Story Creation Zone. 

In Stuck in the Stone Age, a scientist, Marisa, and a want-to-be-scientist, Tom, accidentally end up in the Stone Age when they go in a time machine created by another scientist. They both need to fight off and befriend the cavemen to survive being eaten by a saber-tooth tiger. They end up returning to the present day, but find that some of their problems still remain! In Digging Up Danger, Eliza moves with her mom to New York for the summer while her mom is studying rare plants at a plant shop. When there seem to be ghosts in the attic and basement, secrets kept by the shopkeepers, and one of the most dangerous plants goes missing, Eliza is on the case to solve the mystery! The supernatural conclusion will surprise most readers. 

Anything you did not like about the book. The introduction explaining what StoryPirates is seems like an advertisement. I would have liked seeing it at the end of the book as a reference for readers who are interested in learning more about the group and how they could submit story ideas. 

To whom would you recommend this book? Because of the variety of genres represented, many readers would like this series. It would be great for a reading or writing teacher to use to teach storytelling or genres, especially because of the many specific examples from each book in the Story Creation Zone. The humor style is similar to Louis Sachar in the Wayside School books. Stuck in the Stone Age would be a great next book for fans of Magic Tree House. I would recommend Digging Up Danger to fans of Stuart Gibbs mysteries.

Who should buy this book? Elementary school librarians, middle school librarians, public librarians, writing teachers

Where would you shelve it? Chapter books (if by genre, sci-fi, mystery, and fantasy)

Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Sarah Bickel, Greenlodge Elementary School, Dedham Massachusetts

Date of review: May 20, 2020

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