While out to dinner with my husband, adjacent to our table was a couple with two young girls at least 5 years old—no older than 7. As cinnamon rolls and salad made way to our table, the young girls found their way under theirs. They screamed and hissed at the books their mom tried to give them to read. Instead, they crawled and wrestled all over the place. Eventually, their parents surrendered and simply chewed on their steaks, as if there was nothing they could do. I eyed them and felt annoyed. Before long, thoughts turned to words, and I found myself sharing it like word vomit. This is why I fear to have children today!
When my brother and I were young, we kept ourselves busy with crayons and coloring books. We made small mazes out of sugar packets and gently knocked them down with our finger-like dominos. We took our favorite book to occupy us at the table, while our parents finished their meals. We knew better than to play in a restaurant—we were taught better. Now that I’m going to be a new mom (yes, I’m preggos!), I can’t help but wonder: What happened to those principles? How can we gain them back? This is a question author Sean McCartney asked himself as he wrote the second installment of his popular and renowned learning series, The Treasure Hunters Club (the first in the series, “The Secrets of the Magical Medallions,” 2010). McCartney finds the answer by making sure children love what they learn.
Bound to inspire even the most hesitant and difficult of young readers—and perfect for parents during a somewhat new school year—his latest installation“Breaking the Beale Code,” follows four teens: Tommy Reed, Jackson Miller, Shannon McDougal and Chris Henderson. As they travel, their adventure takes readers around the great historical site of legendary Lynchburg, Virginia, where Thomas Jefferson Beale finds $30 million in gold and silver, and comes back to Virginia to hide it. He creates ciphers and gives them to an old hotel owner, promising to return with the key. Yet, mysteriously, he never does. And this is where the Beale Code story begins.
Commanded by the unusually relatable, flawed yet audacious Tommy Reed, “Breaking the Beale Code” finds its appeal by targeting the trailblazing investigator which lives within us all. It grabs hold of American history, mathematics, geography and the everyday subjects young adults learn in school in an educational and elevating way, and makes it entertaining.
Writing novels seriously for a decade, McCartney’s excitement to take encore readers down the path of creating “Breaking the Beale Code” was truly addicting. “For this second book, I wanted to take the club out of state and have them travel,” he tells. “With the Beale Treasure supposedly in Virginia, this story allowed me to do it.”
McCartney took on the Treasure Hunters Club series for several reasons. One of which was his desire to see his students actually reading out of enjoyment of the material. “I think some of my more reluctant readers became intimidated by the size of a Harry Potter or Percy Jackson books,” he admits. He fixated on making his books a mere 180- to 200-page read. “I want them to be quick [and] fun,” he says, “which can be enjoyed and passed along.”
McCartney also wanted his kids to be able to escape into a thriller like he did in reading the classic Hardy Boys. With mystery and investigation at its forefront, he met the challenge and embarked on his own difficulties along the way. “I struggled at times with making sure the story was realistic enough,” he admits. “Yet, I had elements of magic and fantasy drive the story. Pacing was also something I was very conscience of because I never want the reader to be bored.”
Wanting to be “a good old-fashioned mystery novel fit for a 21st century,” “Breaking the Beale Code” will surpass the 2.5-second attention span that kids have when they read, according to McCartney. “I have taught for 14 years,” McCartney says, “and I have seen the attention span of students become smaller and smaller.” He hopes his book will be used as a tool to help explore modern-day educational themes, such as cryptology and history. Also provided: a moral framework regarding the transformative power of friendship and working together toward a common goal.
“Breaking the Beale Code” is packed with action that centers upon regular kids. They aren’t wizards or demi-gods or dragon riders (not that these genres aren’t fun or educational), but in a time where fantasy is all around us, it’s refreshing to have a novel out that focuses on ordinary kids doing extraordinary things.
Naturally, McCartney could relate to my tale of the dinner table. He offered his own bit of advice for this new parent-to-be and for other parents out there. “I get that [kids] are into electronics—so was I when I was a kid,” he claims, “but my parents made sure it never got out of control. I think it can be improved by taking the elements of distraction away for a bit. I’m not advocating a complete electronic shutdown, but would it really kill anyone to shut off everything for a bit, and read or talk to one another? When I was a kid, I read for 30 minutes every night. Looking back on it, I remember my mom and dad also reading during that time, so they modeled the behavior I was supposed to emulate.”
For more information or to order, visit www.treasurehuntersclubbook.com
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