The Magic Portrait: The First Adventure!
by Claudete Costa
Trafford Publishing

"They found a missing slave inside a crystal-clear geode. He seemed happy and was smiling the same way that always had been. Except he was dead."

When the reader is part of a group of children off on a dangerous and exotic adventure, the immersion into the story is peerless. Using the code name "@," the reader is encouraged to imagine his or her own character bravely exploring an old house and the surrounding property in Minas Gerais, Brazil with their friends Maurice, Claire, Lilia, Matthew, Annie, and Robert. Only the slightest amount of detail about these characters is given so that imagination is put to its fullest. What starts off as a way to occupy the group during a vacation becomes a plot involving the inheritance of an old colonel, an enchanted mine full of jewels, and a criminal conspiracy. At the heart of the story is the reader’s inclusion in the activities, from dialogue to exploration.

The idea of including the reader as an active character is innovative and makes the story jump off the page even more than normal. The read is not exceptionally difficult and is best suited for children age 8-13. One aspect of this story that readers should be exceptionally excited about is the ability to contact the author via email or her website and offer suggestions to what "@" should do in the next book after the first adventure is over. Encouraging young children to get out and have an adventure rather than stay inside and watch television, this book teaches cooperation and attention to detail in a way that is engaging and interesting.

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