The Battle Begins is the first in a new series by Tony Abbott (perhaps best known to young readers for his Secrets of Droon series). It centers around Owen Brown, a fourth-grader who unexpectedly sees his best friend, Dana, disappear into the floor of the school right in front of him.
Shocked and questioning his own sanity, Owen is at first unsure if he really saw what he thinks he did. When a new friend, Sydney, confirms that she also saw Dana’s bizarre disappearance, Owen, Sydney and their friend Jon take Dana’s disappearance VERY seriously. Even more so when they discover that their seemingly average Lunch Ladies are in fact the Valkyries from Norse Mythology. The Valkyries (aka Lunch Ladies) warn the children that the battle of the Underworlds (yes, plural) has begun. IN order to rescue Dana the children must acquire the lyre of Orpheus and beware “three,” “fifty,” and “a hundred.”
Armed with only these cryptic riddle instructions, the three children begin an investigation that will take them into the worlds of Greek, Roman, Egyptian and Norse mythology. They travel to the Underworld to attempt to rescue Dana. Their adventures are fast-paced and thrilling with occasional doses of humor sprinkled throughout.
This is a great read-aloud for second or third grade classes. It’s a great adventure tale as well as providing a great springboard for studies into and questions about mythology. This is a great precursor for young children before they read the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan (Greek mythology), and to a lesser extent, Riordan’s Kane Chronicle series which deals with primarily Egyptian mythology. This series might be a good summer reading choice for young male readers especially–although I think it holds the same appeal for girls who are interested in fantasy and adventure!
The Battle Begins is a great independent or read-aloud choice (at school or home) from a talented author!