HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Secret of the Shark Pit: The Ladd Family Adventure Series #1
Author: Lee Roddy
Cover Illustrator: Jeanne Giordano
Publisher: Mott Media, republished in 2006
Related websites: http://www.leeroddybooks.com (author), http://www.mottmedia.com (publisher)
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Reading level: Ages 9 and up
Rating: ***** 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Roddy, Lee. Secret of the Shark Pit: The Ladd Family Adventure Series #1 (originally published in 1988 by Focus on the Family Publishing; republished in 2006 by Mott Media, 1130 Fenway Circle, Fenton, MI 48430). Twelve-year-old Joshua (Josh) Ladd is allergic to the smog that hovers over his San Fernando Valley home near Los Angeles, CA. He lives there with his dad John, a teacher and writer, mom Mary, fourteen-year-old sister Tiffany, and ten-year-old brother Nathan. He is also lonely because his best friend, Tank Catlett, has moved to Hawaii with his family. Then his father has good news. John has a secret assignment in Hawaii and the whole family is going to visit the Catletts. If he is successful, it might even result in their moving to Hawaii.
However, some weird things begin to happen. A stranger stops Josh and claims to be looking for “an old army buddy” named John Ladd, when John was never in the army. Even before the Ladds go, their home and John’s office at school are both vandalized. After they arrive in Hawaii, their hotel room is burglarized and a treasure map is stolen. Mr. Ladd goes off to find the treasure anyway. Josh wants to come too, but his dad says no because it’s too dangerous. Then Josh learns that the mysterious stranger is following his dad, so he convinces his friends, Tank and Roger Okamoto, to disobey his father in a well-meaning effort to help find the treasure, and the three boys end up trapped in a pit filled with sharks and no way out. What will happen to them, and to John’s father? Our favorite author for boys is G. A. Henty, but two modern writers who rival him are Lee Roddy and Max Elliot Anderson, both of whom especially appeal to reluctant readers.
The thing I like about Roddy’s books is that while young people do make mistakes and bad choices, they find that there are consequences and learn from their errors. They also have loving adults who are available to advise and guide them. While the characters go to church and pray for God’s help in emergencies, the stories don’t come across as “preachy,” but are basically wholesome, action-packed page-turners. Without wanting to reveal the end of the book, I will say that Roger does promise Josh that if the Ladds move to Hawaii, he will show him a live volcano, and the next book is entitled The Legend of Fire. After that, there are thirteen more books in the Ladd Family Adventure Series. Roddy also has three other popular sets for young readers, The D. J. Dillon Adventure Series, the Between Two Flags Series, and the American Adventure Series, of which I have read and reviewed book #1, The Overland Escape.