The secret explorers series by S.J. King. Illus. by Ellie O'Shea

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The Secret Explorers and the Lost Whales bk. 1. ISBN: 9780241440643.
The Secret Explorers and the Comet Collision bk. 2. ISBN: 9780241442258.
The Secret Explorers and the Tomb Robbers bk. 3. ISBN: 9780241442265.
The Secret Explorers and the Jurassic Rescue bk. 4. ISBN: 9780241442272.

The first four books in The Secret Explorers series by S.J. King are a perfect introduction for younger readers to different environments, both past and present. Each of the eight children from different places on Earth are highly gifted and talented in a particular area:

1. Ollie - Rainforests
2. Cheng - Geology
3. Gustavo - History
4. Leah - Biology
5. Kiki - Engineering
6. Roshni - Space
7. Tamiko - Dinosaurs
8. Connor - Marine Life

When a glowing shape matching the badge on their shirts appears on a door then the explorers are able to step through to the Exploration Station and receive their next mission. Not all of the eight explorers go on each mission - they are carefully chosen so that their specialist skills best match the problem needing to be solved.

In the first book, The Secret Explorers and the Lost Whales, Connor must use his skills and understandings of the marine world to try to turn around a pod of Humpback Whales who heading in the wrong direction. He is accompanied by Roshni whose expertise is in the field of space and who wonders why she has been chosen. However without her knowledge of navigation by the stars the whales may not be saved. The two explorers have to problem solve and use their amazing skills to succeed in their first mission.

In the second book, The Secret Explorers and the Comet Collision, Roshni and Ollie travel to space to attempt to fix a space probe near Jupiter but are unaware a comet is heading towards them. There is danger both in the space craft while dodging asteroids and outside for Roshni when trying to fix the probe but Ollie's cool head and skills learnt in the rainforest enable her to return safely to the space craft.

In the third book, The Secret Explorers and the Tomb Raiders, Gustavo and Kiki travel back in time to Ancient Egypt as they discover the Cairo museum by the River Nile is to close down due to theft. The two Secret Explorers must outwit tomb robbers as well as learn Egyptian hieroglyphics and stop Pharaoh Khufu's tomb being raided. A long the way they enlist the aid of a young Egyptian boy, Bek, who helps them to succeed in their mission and safely escape.

In the fourth book, The Secret Explorers and the Jurassic Rescue, Tamiko who is the dinosaur specialist and Cheng the Geology specialist are transported back one hundred and fifty million years in time to save a precious dinosaur egg. Throughout their journey they come across familiar creatures from this Jurassic period: a pterosaur, Compsognathuses, a plesiosaur and Cetiosauruses to name just a few. They even find a baby Stegosaurus with a thorn stuck in its foot and help to pull it out. They are chased by the Allosauruses who are after the egg and hide in caves. They manage to rescue the egg and a baby Archaeopteryx hatches before its mother returns. Eventually the mother and baby are reunited and Tamiko and Cheng realised they have saved this species from extinction.

In each of the stories, the Explorers have a craft in which they travel. The craft is able to transform into a vehicle to suit the time and environment. It is known as the Beagle and was named after the ship that carried the famous scientist Charles Darwin. While the two chosen Explorers are fulfilling their mission, the remaining Explorers are able to watch and listen to their adventures and support them when needed. While these books are considered fiction, they are filled with interesting information throughout and keep the reader highly engaged. There are detailed facts relating to the story at the end of each book as well as a quiz (with answers) and glossary. The illustrations by Ellie O'Shea are perfectly pitched at the 7-9 years age group and add complementary visuals to these excellent early novels.

There are more books in the series, The Secret Explorers and the Rainforest Rangers, The Secret Explorers and the Smoking Volcano and The Secret Explorers and the Missing Scientist which will be valuable additions to this fascinating series. 

Themes: Friends, Climate Change, Environmental Issues, Gifted Children, Marine Life, Space, Dinosaurs, Ancient Egypt, Mysteries, Problem Solving.

Kathryn Beilby