Secret Scouts and the Lost Leonardo [a child’s review] –
We received a complimentary digital copy of Secret Scouts and The Lost Leonardo by Dennis Kind and Wendel Kind prior to its official release. I knew I wouldn’t have time to read the book myself, but I asked if my 12-year-old daughter could read it instead and offer her thoughts.
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As homeschoolers, most would put us in the category of John Taylor Gatto unschoolers. We have a bit of leaning toward the theories of Charlotte Mason with a smidge of Thomas Jefferson style in there as well.
- Related Post on Our Homeschooling: Five Reasons to Play Nancy Drew: Sea of Darkness Video Game
My kids have not used textbooks here. We only use real literature – historical fiction, biographies, and autobiographies, the Bible, and so on. Because I have relied on literature to expose my kids to all the other disciplinaries, I often look for books that weave in science, math, history, geography, and other subjects into the storyline. Secret Scouts and the Lost Leonardo does this beautifully.
Since I did not actually read the book myself, I’ll let my 12-year-old daughter speak first on the subject. She enjoys action-adventure books and had just finished the Maze Runner Series when the offer to review Secret Scouts and the Lost Leonardo came to my inbox. I knew it was something she would want to read.
I will offer additional commentary after her review.
The Words of My Preteen Daughter on Secret Scouts and the Lost Leonardo
Secret Scouts and The Lost Leonardo is a fun mystery adventure book for preteens. Basically four friends – two brothers who are neighbors to two sisters – find a mysterious book in a secret room. It leads them to crazy adventures across the world and across time where they make a new friend in the year 1475.
In Ancient Italy, they find out interesting but disgusting things about Leonardo da Vinci. They rob graves. They have near-death experiences. They have a ton of fun exploring with their new friend who turns out to be a really cool guy besides being one of the most famous artists and inventors of all time.
The authors’ use of humor is just enough to spice up the parts of history that we might normally think of as boring. There are parts of Secret Scouts and the Lost Leonardo that could be scary for sensitive readers. Many scenes are suspenseful but often end with humor to break the darkness.
This book makes you want to be a member of the squad with Sophie, Jack, Lisa, and Tom. Sophie is definitely the most scared, but she is also the most responsible and practical. Jack tries to present himself as the tough guy. Lisa is the jokester or prankster of the group and makes even the grossest moments funny. Tom is Lisa’s loyal sidekick. He will follow Lisa even if he’s not so sure about the plan.
Lisa is my favorite because she’s the most fun.
The four friends use modern technology to communicate across the language barrier with their ancient companion. You’ll never guess the clever trick Sophie comes up with to prove to herself their adventure wasn’t all just a dream.
This story is a little like the fantasy travel of Narnia with the treasure hunting of Goonies. This was an excellent book for me because I love the mixture of fact and fiction, real and fantasy of thrillers like Stranger Things.
This Mom’s Thoughts on Secret Scouts and the Lost Leonardo
I wanted to give some input on Secret Scouts and the Lost Leonardo as well. As stated before, I did not read this book myself. However, when my kids read books they talk to me about them.
Oral narrative is one of the hallmarks of Charlotte Mason style education. This daughter in particular likes to tell me EVERY SINGLE THING that happens in the books she’s reading. She does not like silence because she claims it’s “awkward,” so if you are in a room or vehicle with her, she will fill every moment with talking.
She knows about so many aspects of Ancient Italy that I wasn’t necessarily aware of myself because of this book. There were many times that she would become interested in a minor character in the book and want to know if that was a real person or fictional person.
We would then consult the ever-trusty Google to find out more about that character. Leonardo’s teacher Verrocchio was one of the people we studied extensively as a result of this book. There were also aspects of Leonardo da Vinci’s life that made her want to know more, so we researched various events to see if they were real historical incidents or just make-believe scenes from the story.
Should Christians be Concerned about the Comparison to The Da Vinci Code Books?
Some of the promotional materials for Secret Scouts and the Lost Leonardo compare the book to Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. I understand that the comparison will raise red flags for many Christians, so I wanted to specifically address that.
The short answer is I don’t think you should be concerned Secret Scouts and the Lost Leonardo will be full of religious sacrilege because it was mentioned in the same sentence as Dan Brown’s books. You can keep reading if you want to know my reasoning.
I’m a member of dozens of online homeschooling networks (several of which I’m a moderator), so I know the questions homeschooling parents ask before allowing their kids to read certain books. I know many would shy away from Secret Scouts and the Lost Leonardo if they believe it contains the religious sacrilege of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code.
For the record, I have, in fact, read The Da Vinci Code and the other books in that series myself. During all the Dan Brown hype, I decided to read them because I don’t think I should ever speak harshly against any work of literature unless I’ve read it myself. I wanted to be able to speak intelligently on the issues within the series based upon my own reading and not just the commentary of other Christians.
I did not find The Da Vinci Code as concerning as many others did, not because it wasn’t religious sacrilege, but because it just wasn’t convincing. The Da Vinci Code was, no doubt, full of inaccuracies and sacrilegious ideas. Many were afraid The Da Vinci Code would lead people astray, and I just didn’t think it was convincing enough to lead anyone anywhere.
The Da Vinci Code was trashy pop literature. Nothing more, nothing less.
The entire basis of The Da Vinci Code was that because Leonardo da Vinci believed certain Biblical events to have happened a certain way, they must have really happened that way. Do some people not realize Leonardo lived 1400 years after Christ? His opinion of events in the life of Christ can’t really be considered credible just because he’s Leonardo da Vinci.
Besides, Leonardo was likely considered to be crazy by many of his contemporaries. No one should be basing their religious faith on Dan Brown’s very whimsical interpretation of Leonardo da Vinci’s thoughts on New Testament events.
The supposed clues The Da Vinci Code claimed were painted into Leonardo’s paintings were a huge stretch of the imagination as well. I just didn’t find anything credible enough in any of Dan Brown’s books to warrant the concern many expressed about them. They were secular books by a secular author. I don’t expect them to hold to any sort of Biblical truth.
I personally find it way more concerning that so much Christian literature written by Christians and for Christians is full of scriptural inaccuracies. Christian fiction is rarely theologically sound. I hardly expect secular novels to do better than religious fiction when it comes to the authority of scripture.
With all that being said (sorry for the long tangent), I know that any comparison made between Secret Scouts and the Lost Leonardo will be concerning to Christian homeschoolers, so I specifically asked my daughter to watch for parts of the book that deal with religion and to carefully consider whether there were ideas presented that are completely contrary to our worldview.
My daughter did not believe religion was a significant factor in the book at all. She brought the text to me the couple of times religious topics were mentioned during her reading.
One incident in the book involves the children discussing the origins of the notebook they’ve found. One of the kids thinks it’s so old it could be the Bible. A short conversation between the children revolves around that. They conclude it can’t be the Bible.
There’s a later mention of one of Leonardo’s paintings involving specific religious subject matter. Many of his works involved religious subjects, but there was nothing I found concerning in that brief dialogue either.
After a lot of discussion, my daughter and I concluded that it would be more accurate to compare Secret Scouts and the Lost Leonardo to the movie National Treasure instead of The Da Vinci Code.
Obviously, if you have concerns about what may or may not be presented in a book your child will read, you should read the book yourself before allowing them to read it.
I consider my 12-year-old discerning enough to read most young adult books for herself and really think about how they relate to what we believe. I often find reading opposing worldviews to be a nice way to spark discussion and make us examine our own personal faith.
We should always know why we believe what we believe and be able to intelligently support our views with a rationale. Even children need practice doing this as they grow and learn.
If I have reservations about a book my children want to read, I just read it with them and discuss concerns as we encounter them. Based on my observations skimming through text when I first downloaded Secret Scouts and the Lost Leonardo on my daughter’s Kindle and her very detailed play-by-play narrative of the events unfolding as she read the book, I did not at any point feel the need to read the book with her.
Only you can be the judge of what you should allow your own children to read
My daughter really enjoyed Secret Scouts and the Lost Leonardo and is looking forward to reading future books by Dennis and Wendel Kind.
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