A magical camper van whisks twins Molly and Finn to a dude ranch for a mystery mission.
This first in a beginning chapter-book series blends cozy sibling adventure with a geography theme. The Planet Earth Transporter literally introduces itself to Molly and Finn as they explore the spacious van parked in their Ohio driveway. The rising third-graders, illustrated with white skin and friendly demeanors, find themselves transported to Colorado by the PET in a matter of minutes. Gentle black-and-white illustrations break up text as the pair are deposited at Snowflake Ranch until their “work is done.” The careful balance of dialogue and somewhat-advanced vocabulary throughout will build confidence among emergent readers as they see newer words paired with context clues. Normative gender roles are reinforced: Maternal Helen prepares all the food in the mess hall, Finn is physically brave and a sports fan, and Molly is timorous and book smart. When the ranch’s prize cow, Snowflake, is wrestled by “rogue cowboys” during a cattle drive, Molly, Finn, and newfound friend Ella break off from the grown-ups for a rescue operation. Ella, the lone dark-skinned character depicted, lives part-time in Colorado with her ranch-hand father and with her mother in Florida. Backmatter includes fun facts about Colorado, suggesting that each book in the series will focus on a different U.S. state.
Light fare for emergent chapter-book readers who’ve exhausted the Magic Tree House series. (Adventure. 7-10)