Amanda Lumry & Laura Hurwitz,
Adventures of Riley: Dolphins in Danger &
Adventures of Riley: Mission to Madagascar,
illustrated by Sarah McIntyre
(Eaglemont, 2005)

Children's books aren't my usual reading fare, but anything that teaches children about the environment is worth a look. This pair of books from the Adventures of Riley series were definitely worth my time.

Both books involve the travels of 9-year-old Riley, who sees the world in the company of his Uncle Max, a world-famous biologist, along with his Aunt Martha and cousin Alice. In Dolphins in Danger they visit the Tahitian island of Moorea, and in Mission to Madagascar they track the elusive aye-aye lemur.

The stories are fairly short and, as stand-alone adventures, fairly unremarkable. But authors Amanda Lumry and Laura Hurwitz have provided much, much more than a simple travel yarn, making each book a package that is greater than the sum of its parts.

The colorful illustrations by Sarah McIntyre are packed with detail, and it's as much fun to read the story as it is to sit and study her pictures for the little extras that might not catch your eye the first time around. Even more impressive (and eye-catching for a young reader) is the way McIntyre's illustrations interact with bold, vivid photographs of the settings and animals featured in the tale.

Even better are the brief asides by experts from the Smithsonian Institution, the Wildlife Conservation Society and the World Wildlife Federation, each of which provides short snippets of information about the flora and fauna Riley encounters.

All in all, Lumry and Hurwitz have managed to craft short, interesting stories that might just teach young readers about the world's environment without them realizing that education is happening along the way.

by Tom Knapp
17 February 2007

Buy Dolphins in Danger from

Buy Mission to Madagascar from