Sunday 14 November 2010

Children's Book Review : Mission:Explore Activity Book

The preface says it all and sets the tone : "We are delighted that you have made it this far. As you will see, this is no ordinary book. Do not go any further if you are afraid of going on adventures or trying new things. There is a severe risk that you will never see the world in the same way again. Over the following pages, you will discover over 100 missions, 102 to be exact. Your challenge is to complete and record each of them as best you can. By the time you have completed your unique copy of this book, you will be a hardened explorer, extreme missioner and have a new-found expertise in guerilla geography."

Next comes a whole list of missions, that you can choose to undertake in whichever order you like. Some of them aim to get the kids out and about, away from the lure of the small screen(s) - "Forget the internet", "Spend a day without turning anything on", ... Others get your kids to really interact with nature, such as "Investigate the murder of an animal", "Go hunting for mini-beasts", "Find the tallest tree"... Others make you smile just by reading the names of the missions : "Track kangaroos", "Sell the smell of your town", "Converse with a cow", "Play dare with a chair", ...Some of them, like getting into the news, getting old people to loiter in hoodies (my particular fave) or creating a legal graffiti wall, seem slightly over-ambitious for younger kids but may appeal to teens.

Reading the "basic training" part as a parent is a bit worrying. The book tells your kids to hatch a plan in case it all goes wrong, note down the numbers of people to contact in an emergency, take some plasters, pay attention to the weather which could make things dangerous, ... Just what exactly are our kids going to be encouraged to do ?! The no-nonsense advice will really appeal to kids though and in the end you can't help but smile yourself, when you read lines like "Don't stick anything in your mouth if you don't know what it is. You don't want to get poisoned and start puking up all over everything". However, I breathed out a sigh of relief when I turned to the first mission and saw that it involves secretly following a friend by cutting eyeholes in a newspaper. Not much chance of getting hurt doing that then.The other missions are equally silly and pretty much danger-free too.

The book gives you a special tweet code on each mission page so that you can go on Twitter and share news of your missions with other people doing them. This community aspect adds a slightly competitive element which keeps kids motivated and excited about finishing the tasks. And I'm intrigued to see who actually completes some of the sillier missions like putting on a play for a CCTV camera or putting a white murder scene line around a dead animal ! There is also a website for you to find bonus missions.

The book has been highly praised, amongst others by National Geographic, as "bold, cool, exciting, innovative, geographic, educational…and just plain fun ! Every curious kid, budding geographer, and responsible parent should have a copy !". It has just been given 'Pink Stinks Approval' for its ungendered and positive nature. All author royalties are used to give out free copies of the book for deprived children.

If you remember the I-Spy books that send you out to discover the world around you and spot things that you probably wouldn't have noticed before, it's a bit like one of those, with a huge dose of silliness and irresistable humour mixed in. Many of the missions, as well as being great fun, really get kids thinking about the world they live in and despite the warnings and fairly comprehensive first aid guide at the end, really won't put your kids in any more danger than if you send them outside to play on their bikes or run around in the park. For younger kids, you'll need to get involved to some extent in most of the missions but as they're so much fun, that's no great hardship !

star rating : 4.5/5
RRP : £7.99

for more information :

Paperback: 200 pages
Publisher: Can of Worms Kids Press (1 April 2010)
Language English
ISBN-10: 1904872336
ISBN-13: 978-1904872337

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