by William Summerhouse
Shake-A-Leg Press 9/14/2014
Age 8 to 12 284 pages
***Kirkus Reviews ~ “Orion is a smart, fun-loving boy whose bravery and humor marks him a timeless hero alongside Huckleberry Finn. Recommended for any young reader who loves adventure. A wild, imaginative adventure that explores the ends of the world.”
“Eleven-year-old Orion Poe lives with his stodgy grandfather in eastern Maine, where nothing exciting ever happens. But then a series of strange events draws him into the mystery of the lost explorer and Orion is swept up in a whirlwind of adventure that takes him to the top of the world. To survive he must outwit a scheming treasure hunter, team up with a gang of flimps, and take on a tyrant with an anger management problem. Can Orion solve the mystery and get back home alive? And just what are flimps?”
“If you read what Mr. Lumpkin wrote in the newspaper about my adventure at the top of the world, you only got half the story.”
Orion Poe finds a man thrown to the shores of Maine by a nor’easter who turns out to have been running from New Britain, a community at the top of the world. He leaves Orion with a map dated 1847 and written by John Franklin, an explorer looking for the Northwest Passage but disappeared with over 130 men and 2 tall ships. Franklin and his crew were never found.
A John Franklin is the governor of New Britain and a tyrant bent on total control of the inhabitants. He comes searching for the man who Orion found, murders him, and then ransacks Orion’s home looking for the knapsack Orion now has. After taking the map to a professor, the professor and Orion take off on an adventure to find the reason the man washed up on a Maine shore, what he was running from, but mostly, was the map pointing to the lost whereabouts of Franklin and his crew?
Based on the real John Franklin and crew who disappeared and never heard from again, Orion Poe and the Lot Explorer crashes history with adventure in a story difficult to put down. At first, the tall ship looking for the washed up man seemed to be a ghost ship, and it was in its own way, but also a real ship from the 1800’s traveling the current seas. Once at the top of the Canadian Arctic, time stopped for Franklin and his crew and he wanted no one to find out. This once amicable group now lived in tyranny and fear. With the professor and Orion making their way up to the arctic, Franklin’s fears become a reality.
I liked the high seas fighting that occurs and that the real travel times are observed. Orion doesn’t make it to New Britain over night but must face the rough unforgiving sea first. Once there, Orion spends time in the new city and we learn how they could pull off living in such an extreme environment and what year they believe it is: 2013 or 1847. There is also a darker side to this community where the entire group of cast offs are placed. Here a group of courageous kids is quietly fighting the tyranny of New Britain. This side story become important and is some of the best writing.
The edition I received has the author name of William Fourth. I am not sure why this was changed or when, but the real author name is William Summerhouse and many of the books list him as the author. I’m curious as to the change. Throughout the writing is crisp and clean. While reading, it felt like I was right there alongside Orion. Orion Poe and the Lost Explorer, book 1 in the Orion Poe Adventure Series, is Summerhouse’s debut and it will be a challenge to write a better story than this story of Orion. Wonderful first book by a promising young writer. Good fun for kids who love fantasy, historical fiction, and most importantly, the mash up of the two genres.
ORION POE AND THE LOST EXPLORER. Text copyright © 2013 by William Summerhouse. Book copyright © 2013 by Shake-A-Leg Press.
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