Matthew Kirby takes that giant leap in his historical fiction novel for young adults, The Lost Kingdom.
Just prior to the outbreak of the French and Indian War, Benjamin Franklin sends several members of the American Philosophical Society on an unlikely adventure. Tasked with discovering a lost tribe of Welsh speaking Indians and the descendants of
Madoc, these scientists explore the wild frontier along the Ohio River.
As a Hoosier, I'm familiar with our state's early history, but little before the revolutionary war. As I read about their journey, I would often go to Google Maps trying to locate their position but the book gives few clues to specific sites. A few arcane animals are also mentioned, requiring another web search. These magnificent creatures are currently extinct, but in Kirby's alternate reality some remain.
One of the major themes throughout is the tension between a father and son who see the world through different perspectives. Some readers may be offended by the father's prejudices and disappointed with a lack of resolution to the issue. I suggest teachers and parents use it as a springboard for discussion about how we form opinions about different cultures and ethnic groups.
Overall the book read well with only slight inferences to romantic stirrings and a single use of an exclamation that appeals to a deity. At times I had trouble keeping the characters organized in my mind as each is distinct but not always distinguishable. The book was given to me by a couple students at last year's Scholastic Book Fair and I am happy to give it a home on my personal bookshelf.