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European Adventures: Aix Marks the Spot | Review

Book cover Aix Marks the Spot by Rachel SelleWhat would happen if you took the Famous Five and teleported them into 21st century Europe? You’d have the four cousins Agatha, Maxine, Simon and Jane from The European Adventures!

Rachel Selle’s second instalment of the quartet’s adventure mystery series takes them to France, specifically Aix-en-Provence, to which the book’s title Aix Marks the Spot so aptly refers. Here on holiday, the four become ensnared in their second mystery when they witness the burglary of five priceless works of art. Together with their contacts in the police, they deduce the clues and follow the trial to find the painting and hopefully their culprit! This caper is the perfect escapism for adventurous readers, aged 7 to 10, with an easy-to-follow mystery at its heart.

The four cousins effortlessly fill the shoes of the Famous Five – Enid Blyton’s four plucky child detectives, who along with their dog Timmy, have swept children up in adventures and mysteries since the 1940s. Now, with Mr. Murphy, father and uncle to the cousins, taking the fifth role as sidekick, comic relief, tour guide and history expert, the four children are the perfect adventuring role models for young readers, just like Blyton’s Julian, Dick, George and Anne.

All four of our detectives are curious and interested in the world around them. Their endless intrigue leads them into exciting situations and helps them make new friends, but most importantly, all of them are so eager to learn! The children are delighted by Aix-en-Provence, a town in the south of France brimming with historical architecture. Their excited questions and curiosity teach readers about the town, transforming this work of fiction into a useful guidebook for children. It is incredibly tempting and easy to look up the real locations to see the sites which are accurately described in the book. All curious children will be intrigued to discover these far-off locations – the cathedral of Aix-en-Provence, the city’s fountains, and the artistic downtown of Marseille.

The European Adventures: Aix Marks the Spot: A Mystery Adventure Book for Kids

Even amidst the tension of hunting down an art thief, the book shows us there is so much to learn, especially for young detectives. Aix Marks the Spot’s author Rachel Selle is evidently on a mission to educate and to reveal that the ways we are taught in school is not conclusive for future enjoyment of a subject. Art and history are the two subjects she targets, and by taking her characters, and thereby her readers, up close to the artefacts, monuments and artworks, and exploring topics like symbolism, children and adults alike can learn exactly how to appreciate the beauty before us. Maybe these lessons can help us readers capture an art thief too! You never know when these skills will come in handy!

The most striking of all is the story’s timelessness – this European Adventure’s mystery could be set in any period, a theme doubled down on by the book’s beautiful illustrations as all the characters are shown to be dressed in unspecific and timeless clothing. The only clue to point us to a date are the references to phones and internet. Clearly, these detectives represent all children’s curiosity, a feat which has always defied generations. And anyway, who needs the wifi code when you have a mystery to solve?

Available from Amazon and book shops everywhere…

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