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Arthi Vasudevan
Maya is a curious Indian American seventh grader. Maya’s parents are part of a top secret project for the U.S Government, in which they are inventors of a medicine that could save millions of lives. However, criminals are trying to steal the formula of the medicine through Maya’s computer. It all comes down to Maya, her best friend Dave, and her artificially intelligent animal cyber pals to keep the criminals from stealing the formula. However, are her cybersecurity skills enough to save the day? Maya’s adventures in this book weave through seven distinct cybersecurity concepts - password strength, Personally Identifiable Information (PII), digital footprint, Internet security, malware, cyberbullying, and phishing.
In this thrilling, fast-paced middle grade adventure, young Maya Iyer and her close friend, Dave, find themselves under cyber attack in a new virtual reality game. With the aid of her new cyberbots, six “mini animal robots” created by her scientist parents to help keep her safe in the VR world, Maya and Dave work together to beat the levels of the virtual game, Cyberama. But the more they explore, the more personal information the game prompts them for— especially information pertaining to Maya and her parents’ new secret government project.

A senior cybersecurity project manager of 15 years, author Vasudevan draws on her experience to craft a story and characters to educate middle graders on the covert tactics of cyber hackers. Throughout, Maya and Dave discover the meanings of terms like "bad actors," "firewall," and "phishing,” sometimes from their cyberbots, who each boast special skills and powers, including an owl with supersonic speed and a unicorn who can shoot flames from her mouth. Maya and Dave catch on that something’s not right when the game asks, “Now, guess how many miles your home is from the Empire State Building”—an attempt to hone in on her home address. As they unlock new levels, Maya and Dave come to the terrifying realization that the game knows personal details Maya hasn't disclosed. Fearful that her parents will revoke her gaming and internet privileges, Maya makes it her mission to stop the cybercriminals and protect her family with the help of her friends and their special set of cyber-skills.

Vasudevan does a stellar job of creating relatable, interesting characters and an exciting world full of puzzles and challenges, all while emphasizing crucial concepts of cybersecurity. Equal parts adventurous and educational, Cyberama is a perfect introduction to the perils of cyberstalking and hacking. Filled with colorful illustrations, this is the perfect read for students and children delving into gaming and learning social interactions online.

Takeaway: An educational adventure for young readers about cybersecurity.

Comparable Titles: Amber DeVilbiss’s The Little Cyber Engineer, Lyron Foster’s The Adventures of Snacker The Hacker.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A