Poptropica: Book 1: Mystery of the Map is the first in a new series of graphic novel-style chapter books based on the uber-popular online game of the same name. Author Jack Chabert and illustrator Kory Merritt have taken Diary of a Wimpy Kid author Jeff Kinney’s concept of a time-traveling, globetrotting, adventure-gaming world and transformed it into a fun new book series that is quickly going to turn into a must-read. Expect to see Poptropica front and center at the bookstore, as well as in every elementary school kid’s backpack.

Main characters Oliver, Mya, and Jorge begin the story by going on a hot air balloon ride, but soon things go from peaceful to adventurous when they soar out of range and onto an island, where the balloon crashes. The trio quickly realizes that they have been double crossed by the balloon’s pilot, who is on a mysterious quest that involves a magical map. Along the way Oliver, Mya, and Jorge are use their own talents to evade saber tooth tigers, escape Vikings, and explore the ever changing tropical island they are stranded on. With the help of the magical map, which seems to operate like a cell phone, GPS device, and mind reader all in one (who needs Siri anyway?), they work to find the balloon pilot and their only way back home. The story ends on a great cliffhanger, which I won’t spoil, that begs for a sequel — and so will young fans. When kids get done reading (and rereading!) Mystery of the Map, preorders are now open for Poptropica: Book 2: The Lost Expedition

What helps make Poptropica stand out from many other chapter books is its graphic novel style. A mixture of traditional story telling and in-depth comic strip art, graphic novels are the perfect combination of storytelling and visuals. The genre appeals to all ages, from fantastic adult fare like Alan Moore’s superhero thriller Watchmen, to the YA essential Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood, which presents a vision of childhood during the Islamic Revolution. These types of book are a worthy alternative to traditional novels and should be part of every home library. For kids who love art and pictures as much as they enjoy stories, younger readers who aren’t quite ready to jump into full chapter books, kids who are just too active to sit and read for long periods, or for the kid who devours books and is looking for the next new thing, graphic novels are a fantastic choice.

With smart, funny characters and beautiful art, the first entry in the Poptropica series will be loved by both kids who are fans of the game (who will be excited to see the universe they already love expanding into print), and those who are brand new to the adventures. And yes, parents are going to love these clever and brave kids (Mya especially is a delight), who face impossible challenges with humor and heart. I can’t wait to see where this series goes — but in the meantime, grab the first book, enjoy some fabulous matching stickers (or more books from Jack Chabert and Kory Merritt), and get ready for some great spring break reading.

Are there Poptropica fans in your house?

Originally published at www.barnesandnoble.com on March 1, 2016.


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