Thursday, March 04, 2010

X Marks the Spot: The Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Treasure Hunt by Megan McDonald

"Name's Cap'n Weevil," said the pirate. "But my friends call me Scurvy Sam...." "Folks 'round here call it Pirate Island, on account o' Blackbeard himself haunted these parts back in the day,"

"Listen up, all ye scumbuckets and scallywags," Scurvy Sam announced. "This be the weekend of the Third Annual Pirate Island Treasure Hunt. Fun and mayhem start first thing in the morn."

At first Judy Moody is in a show-me mood about the family's vacation on Ocracoke Island, but when would-be pirate Stink informs her that they may be the descendants of pirate Christopher Moody, Judy begins to feel the excitement just as the ferry draws near what Stink calls "Artichoke Island." And as the newly named "Scurvy Stink" and "Mad Molly O'Maggot," learn that they can win real gold doubloons and a ceremonial sail around the island on a pirate ship, it's YO HO HO and away we go for Team Stink and Judy on the trail of the eight clues.

But blimey, there are bloody tough buccaneer rivals out there. Judy and Stink soon notice another pair of sibling competitors, whom they christen Tall Boy and Smart Girl, who seem to be knocking off the clues right on their heels, and the race is on to the final hiding place of the silver coin which will win the contest. Along the way Judy acquires a new respect for her brother's powers of deciphering rhyming riddle clues and his forethought, including packing along Morse code, flashlight, and a spyglass. For her part, Judy's powers of observation come in handy as she picks up some pivotal cues from their their competitors.

It's a race to the final clue between Judy and Stink and Tall Boy and Smart Girl, with both finally zeroing in on clapper-less bells on a promontory of Ocracoke Island. Luckily, Judy takes off for the old bell outside the Coast Guard station, while their rivals check out the antique bell in the museum, and Judy and Stink are the first, by a pirate's whisker, to the prize. Realizing that they profited from the efforts of their rivals, the Moodys generously invite Tall Boy and Smart Girl to join them on the celebratory circumnavigation of the island on the Queen Anne's Revenge II.

In her latest, Judy Moody & Stink: The Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Treasure Hunt (Candlewick Press, 2009), author Megan McDonald proves that the quality of the perennially popular Judy Moody series is more than holding its own among beginning chapter books. With the addition of little brother Stink in the "Judy Moody and Stink" sub-series, McDonald gains a spunky new boy protagonist, a dedicated jokester more ebullient and adventuresome than the moody Judy, who contributes added verve to the Moody family adventures.

With believable characterizations, rhyming riddle clues just right for early elementary readers to solve, and stand-out full-color illustrations by artist Peter H. Reynolds generously placed throughout the text, this Judy Moody is a real treasure!

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