It was just a simple writing assignment. Freddie Tanaka needed to write a school paper on the Tongva, the native people of Los Angeles. So Freddie and his friends — Millie Reyes, Kyle Baldwin, Sleater Wiley and Neil Chandler — decided to take a nature hike up in Cottonwood Canyon and do some hands-on research. Their hike turns dangerous, though, when Freddie falls down a hole into a hidden cave. But that’s also where he finds the perfect inspiration for his project — an ancient Tongvan cave painting, previously undiscovered. Things don’t go smoothly for Freddie and the kids, especially after a mysterious explosion nearly destroys the cave. But who could have done such a thing? Mae Templeton, the former Hollywood child star and owner of Cottonwood Canyon? The Large Corp., the real estate developer interested in buying the canyon and paving it over? And what about Mae’s grandson, the shady and none too friendly Jimmy Campbell? Or was it someone else?
Written in a style that will appeal to tweens and early teens, The Wiley Kids in the Adventure of Cottonwood Canyon combines fascinating descriptions of ancient Native American heritage with present day examples of greed and corruption.
Fun Educational Apps awards this latest title in the Wiley Kids series a Top Pick for setting a high standard of excellence in literature.
In this lively and inventive e-book, five canyoneering young friends shift into detective mode when they stumble upon a mystery rooted in Native American history.
Middle schooler Freddie Tanaka is stumped. His creative writing assignment on Southern California’s indigenous Tongva people isn’t going so well. “All my ideas start out OK, but then they spin out of control,” he says: restaurants, lasers, aliens, and Star Wars references keep creeping into his stories. A hike in nearby Cottonwood Canyon and the discovery of a Tongva cave painting provide not only inspiration, but a mystery for Freddie and his friends to solve: who is out to destroy the painting, and why? Freddie and the other Wiley Kids—Millie Reyes, Kyle Baldwin, Sleater Wiley, and Neil Chandler as well as Sleater’s wise old Gramps (and his ’68 Chevy Suburban)—find themselves on a wild ride through history. A bombing attempt, a sympathetic monk and a Buddhist temple, an elderly former child star, a 103-year-old Tongva chief, a deceptive real estate developer, and assorted other shady characters figure into the vivid plot, as do food trucks, music, movie, and TV references, and a recipe for homemade tortillas and tacos.
A follow-up to The Wiley Kids in the Mystery of the Cucamonga Moon (2012), this imaginative eco-mystery is both about and “by” the Wiley Kids, young sleuths whose individual talents mesh. To get to the bottom of it all, they use 21st century technology—smartphones, Google, Twitter, GorillaPods, robotics—and their brainpower, eclectic interests, and gifts for creative problem-solving.
The well-defined first-person narration alternates among the five friends—“pretty much your average suburban middle-schoolers, except for one thing,” Neil says: “We have a habit of finding ourselves knee-deep in mysteries.” Interactive e-book features embedded throughout include videos, original music, maps, photography, and informational and vocabulary links. As the Wiley Kids (and readers) dig deeper into Tongva history, action enters the danger zone, and after the mystery is solved, Freddie finally writes an engaging, well-informed story. He gets an A; so does this book.
A well-written blend of education and entertainment, with relatable young protagonists and a deft 21st century twist on historical sleuthing.