Title: Operation Golden Llama (Cousins in Action, Volume 1) | Author: Sam Bond | Illustrator: Renee and Danielle (Mother and Danielle)| Publication Date: November 18, 2013 | Publisher: Bound Publishing | Pages: 280 | Recommended Ages: 8 to 12 | Reviewed by:
Summary: Dumped at their eccentric Grandma’s, Cagney, Olivia, Aidan, Lissy and Tess are convinced they’re in for a boring summer. But when Grandma gets a series of mysterious phone calls and a highly unlikely pet sitter arrives, the cousins find themselves jetting off to Peru, where, much to their surprise, they find the adventures have only just begun.
1. What is the book about? This book is about five cousins (Cagney, Olivia, Tess, Lizzy and Aidan) who go on vacation to Peru with their grandma who goes missing when they land. They then discover that there is a hidden treasure somewhere but someone is planning to steal it. So the cousins must foil the villain’s evil plans and find the treasure first.
2. What are your favorite parts of the book? I liked how it was Tess that saved all the cousins because it is basically saying that young kids are capable of being very brave. There were lots of parts that I really liked. It was a fun mystery and adventure.
3. Was there anything that you didn’t like or that didn’t make sense? I don’t think it made sense how the grandma had a connection with everyone in Peru and that she would abandon her grandchildren in a strange country. Also why did the kids get grounded because:
a) they saved the treasure; and
b) the grandma brought them to Peru and abandoned them so why is the grandma not in trouble?
4. What are some of the things you learned about Peru? I learned that the capital of Peru is Lima and that its population is 8 million. Peru is in South America and people there speak Spanish. I also learned a lot about the history of Peru and the people of Inca. I learned that Machu Picchu is an ancient city on top of a mountain in Peru and that the Inca lived there. I learned that Choclo (a peruvian dish) is not actually made out of chocolate.
5. Overall, what did you think about the book? I thought that the book was pretty funny and cool and I really learned a lot about Peru. At some parts it was confusing, but overall, the story was awesometastic!
6. Who do you think would like this book? I think kids 8-12 would like this book.
My Thoughts: We are first introduced to the five cousins (Olivia, Cagney, Tess, Aidan, and Lissy) as they attempt to break into their Grandma Callie’s study to discover what their grandmother, after receiving 311 phone calls, was up to. Before long, Grandma Callie and the cousins are off to Peru on vacation, where the children immediately get separated from their grandmother. Mysteriously, Grandma Callie had made arrangements for local friends to safeguard the children in her absence. Hmmmm….
As the children learn about the history of Peru and the Inca, they cross paths with the mysterious fashion photographer Gabriela and her boyfriend, the archaeologist Pietro, and soon they become entangled in a sinister plan to steal the hidden treasure of the Incas. With their grandmother still missing and danger lurking nearby, it is up to the “Cousins in Action” to save the day.
The five cousins, each with a distinct personality, were among the most endearing combination of characters I’ve run across in a while. Cagney is the oldest cousin at 12. She is the most pragmatic and cautious of the group. Lissy, 10, is the brainiac of the group, who with the help of her laptop, “Spider”, regales her siblings and cousins with facts about Peru. Aidan, 11, is Cagney and Lissy’s brother and the only boy in the group (much to his dismay). Olivia is also 11 and along with adorable little Tess – the youngest at 6 – is adopted from China. Olivia is that cousin who pushes the boundaries, bravely exploring her environment. The character development in the story is excellent and I couldn’t help but reminisce about the great times I spent with my cousins growing up.
The author, Sam Bond, does a great job of setting up and building the mystery and suspense through the use of a “flash-forward” prologue and by introducing different characters that leave you guessing at who is the good guy and who is the bad guy. I became thoroughly engaged in the mystery, trying to decipher clues and became completely invested in the characters as they came face to face with danger. To be clear though, the level of danger and tension in the story is perfectly suited to children ages 8 to 12.
The educational value of this book is very high. Through Lissy’s character, the reader learns so much about Peru including the history, culture, food, language, geography and so on. At the back of the book, there is even a Q&A so that children can test their knowledge of the facts peppered throughout the story. Additionally, there is an author’s note that provides more details about the hidden treasure of the Inca and the hunt for the treasure. Finally, the author provided Book Discussion Points for children that can be used in a classroom setting or elsewhere. I felt that this was all very well done!
While I certainly really enjoyed reading the story, and the development of the cousins’ characters was very well done, I did feel like there were two loose ends. The first is that Grandma Callie’s character felt under-developed. She was a bit of a mystery, but perhaps too much so. It is mentioned that she captures the thieves in the end, but I feel like we still don’t know anything about her. The second is the character “The Mysterious Pet Sitter” who is introduced in the second chapter and whom is spied by the children throughout the story. I don’t really know what role he played and I felt like he was forgotten by the end of the story. Again, I would have liked to know more about this character.
My Bottom Line: Operation Golden Llama is the first book in the middle grade mystery series, Cousins in Action. This book features a well-developed and endearing cast of five cousins (4 girls and 1 boy) who are whisked away on a great adventure in Peru with their Grandma Callie. The plot twists and turns as the children get entangled in a scheme to steal hidden treasure, while the reader learns many historical and cultural facts about Peru along the way. This intriguing story packs a lot of punch in terms of its educational and entertainment value and I recommend it to children ages 8 to 12 who love a great adventure.
* This book was provided to us by the author through our Editorial Review service in exchange for our honest reviews. All opinions expressed are our own. *
About the Author: Sam Bond
Sam Bond is the winner of the 2014 Writers’ League of Texas Discovery Book Award in Children’s/Middle Grade. Born in London and raised in Shropshire, Sam has lived all over the world. She currently lives in Austin, TX with her two daughters and a dog named Sausage. Sam is the author of Operation Golden Llama and Operation Tiger Paw. The third book in the Cousins In Action series is due for release later this year.
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Giveaway ends: July 15, 11:59 pm, 2015
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