Monday, June 13, 2016

Review: Yaakov the Pirate Hunter by Nathaniel Wyckoff

Yaakov the Pirate Hunter
by Nathaniel Wyckoff

25155116Los Angeles, 2025. Yaakov and Yosef Peretz discover a treasure map hidden in their family's robot; soon, their family embarks on an adventure that takes them halfway around the world to save a valuable and revered religious artifact. In the Mojave Desert, the Peretz family unearths a mysterious treasure chest stolen from a Santa Barbara billionaire named Aharon Sapir. Yaakov and family manage to return the treasure and to outwit the pirates who stole it, but soon learn of a greater danger to the Sapir family fortune. On the Tunisian island of Djerba rests the Sapirs' most sacred heirloom: the world's oldest Torah scroll, an artifact worth a fortune. Another pirate is after the ancient scroll, and the Peretzes' trusted robot dealer may be involved. Yaakov and family journey to the other side of the globe to track down a ruthless pirate and to thwart his wicked plan. To succeed, Yaakov must decide between saving his prized robot, built with his very hands, and protecting a greater good.

This MG Science Fiction story is a fun little tale with robots, pirates, and international intrigue and adventure. Filled with Jewish words and references to the Shabbat and other Jewish laws, customs, and traditions, it was also instructive into the daily life among Jewish families.

My Take:
This first offering in the Peretz Family Adventures gives kid-friendly adventure without too much of the violence. Finding a hidden map projected from one of their robots was a great device reminiscent of the message hidden in R2D2 in Star Wars IV. The main character, Yaakov, is a likable kid genius inventor, who uses some impressive tech to help solve the mystery and catch the baddies. His siblings are mostly unlikable and spoiled, though Yosef does contribute from time to time. His father doesn't seem to have enough dimension but his mother is fire and steel, and when her babies are threatened she breaks out the Mama Bear.

The antagonists are for the most part off-screen, and therefore not well-developed or dangerous-seeming. This is not an issue with books for younger readers. However, the pacing in the story could have been smoother and quicker in places to hold the attention of kids (or adults). The frequent references to Jewish traditions like how they keep the Sabbath (Shabbat) were informative, and kids outside the Jewish faith might be interested, while kids inside the faith might be, like Yosef, a bit bored.

G - While the family is threatened by pirates at one point and robots in another, there's no real violence done at all, and no one is harmed at all in the story except a robot.

Very clean.

Adult Content:
G. There's not even hand-holding by Mom and Dad.

Christian content:
The story is written from a Jewish point of view, and contains many references to the Sabbath, morning prayers, and other references to the Hebrew faith. There is a lot of attention given to the value of an ancient copy of the Torah, which is as it should be. Moral lessons like confession, repentance, and forgiveness are covered well. Family is portrayed positively and as a cohesive unit.

Final analysis:
Yaakov and his mom are likable characters, and the tech set 10 years from now was interesting. Yaakov's siblings were not likable, which will probably develop in Character Arcs as the series progresses. The settings were fairly well-described and the action and plot in the story are entertaining. I found the book fun and informative. Four Stars.

About the Author:
Nathaniel Wyckoff was born and raised in the beautiful San Fernando Valley of southern California. From an early age, he was interested in reading, writing and listening to stories.

Nathaniel's storytelling career took flight with the births of his children. His children enjoy all kinds of stories, but most of Nathaniel's stories for them are of the fantasy and adventure variety. Nathaniel's first novel, Yaakov the Pirate Hunter, was inspired by his son's request for a story about robots. It combines elements of science, adventure, and Nathaniel's beloved Jewish tradition.

In addition to writing, the author also enjoys studying his Jewish traditions, reading, playing the accordion and the piano for his family, playing games and sports with his children, and taking his family on hiking trips, camping trips and other adventures.

Yaakov the Pirate Hunter is the first volume in his Peretz Family Adventures series. Volume 2 is now on the way.

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