The Kids Beat

Young Adult Adventure

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When ad man Jon Voelkel and his family relocated from the UK to Norwich, Vt., he planned to write a marketing book. But he kept getting bored. "I used to tell bedtime stories to the kids every night," says Voelkel. "My son had a favorite story about a monkey girl, and I thought, That would be such a great book."

So he and his wife, Pamela Craik Voelkel, teamed up and wrote Middleworld, an adventure novel about a 14-year-old who finds himself fighting off ancient Maya death lords while searching for his archaeologist parents in Central America. If that sounds like a combination of Indiana Jones and Tintin with a touch of Harry Potter, it is. Besides fast-paced action and dry humor, the Voelkels offer carefully researched Maya lore.

Last spring, the couple appeared on the "Today" show, where Al Roker picked Middleworld for his book club for kids. Now its sequel, The End of the World Club, is in stores. Don't be scared by the title. The Voelkels aren't 2012 alarmists, and neither, they assure kids, were the Maya — who, says Jon, believed in "the cyclical nature of time, going on in perpetuity." That's a relief...

The End of the World Club (The Jaguar Stones: Book Two) by J&P Voelkel, Egmont USA, 384 pages. $16.99.

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