Adventure and discovery is the only heartbeat Jay and Lila have known. Ever since they could remember, their dad, Dr. Jake Cooper, has taken his children along on his archeological excavations which somehow always turn out to be Indiana Jones-like adventures complete with sinking islands, “ghosts” from another era, a mysterious disease that turns it’s host green with insanity and giants walking straight out of the pages of the Bible. After Mrs. Cooper died in a cave-in accident on one of their expeditions, Dr. Cooper has been more determined than ever to keep his children, 14-year old Jay and 13-year old Lila, by his side and not miss out on the opportunity to personally instruct his children and teach them the ways of the Lord. The book series centers on such themes as faith in God’s sovereignty, conquering sinful fear and exercising sacrificial love. Recommended reading level for children is 8-14 years old though not all content is appropriate for all ages. Use your own discretion.
“The Cooper Kids Adventure Series” was one of my favorite book series when I was 10/11 years old. A couple years ago I found them in a used book store and decided to relive the adventures of the eight-paperback series. Some I fell in love with all over again and others I was disappointed with. Below are summaries of each of the books with my ratings and comments. The first three books demonstrate immaturity in the author’s writing but the last three are well-worth looking into and I gave 5-star ratings to.
The Door in the Dragon’s Throat book #1
⭐️(contains a spoiler)
Local legend in Nepur says that anyone who tries to open the forbidden door will face certain death. Because of the Cooper family’s unwavering faith in God, they fear no such curses and agree to try to open the door to uncover it’s hidden treasures. Little did they know that it was an army of demons lurking behind the door, waiting until the day of judgement when they will be released. Now they must wrestle the key from the greedy Gozan and save the earth from a premature judgement.
Bad eschatology. Bad character development. Will terrify young children and bore older ones.
Escape From the Island of Aquarius book #2
When a medallion from Aquarius and a pocketed note is found on the body of a dead man floating in the South Sea, the International Missionary Alliance’s interest and hope is renewed and they send the Cooper family to find the missionary Adam MacKenzie, long presumed dead.
But when the Coopers arrive on Aquarius they find something strange is up with the island. Not only do they find a reportedly primitive civilization that’s not so primitive and a man claiming to be the long-lost missionary but has inexplicably recounted his faith, and a reported “curse” that rules Aquarius, but the island appears to be…sinking. Will the Cooper family find the real Adam MacKenzie, conquer the alleged curse and flee the island in time?
I give it three stars because the plot was interesting and the idea of a sinking island captured my imagination. The book could have been so much better if it had better character development though. The lead characters are shallow and do not respond to trials as we would expect characters with a nature like ours to respond and move through phases of anger and fear too quickly to be realistic, cheapening the redemptive messages of the story.
The Tombs of Anak book #3
Dr. Cooper only thought he was conducting a simple archeological excavation in Gath. Little did he know that his employers would soon have him chasing after hidden treasure in caves with B.C. giants of the Bible and fleeing from a power-hungry sorceress. Mystery and intrigue abounds in this fast-paced thriller! Why does Ben-Arba insist on going with the Coopers and why, come to think of it, does he always wear gloves?
Join Dr. Cooper as he leads his children in an archeological adventure to discover the only real treasure worth having.
Again, weak and generic lead characters but what redeemed this story to a three-star for me was the interesting plot and villainess.
For another helpful, more in-depth review of “The Tombs of the Anak” check out Focus on the Family’s website here: http://www.focusonthefamily.com/parenting/protecting_your_family/book-reviews/t/tombs-of-anak.aspx
Trapped at the Bottom of the Sea book #4
Dr. Jake Cooper has never really gotten over his wife’s death. His demanding job helped to drown his grief and keep his mind occupied but it’s also blinded him to the needs of his children. They yearn to talk of their mother, to grieve with him but feel the topic–and their father–is unapproachable. It’s not until Lila becomes trapped under the sea in a locked, top-secret weapons pod that Dr. Cooper is forced to face his neglect and now rescue his daughter with the help of his son Jay and spunky, journalist-adventurer Meaghan Flaherty. But not only do they have to find the plane’s crash-site, they also have to elude angry terrorists and a tribe of cannibals. Will they find Lila before her air runs out?
At last, we are dealing with human characters, not could-be-anybody stereotypes! An enjoyable read with good themes. One small critique of this book I have is that there was an annoying loose thread at the end. There is a bit of romance developed between Dr. Jake Cooper and Meaghan–the woman who helped him push through his grief and be the father his children need–and the end of the book leaves you with the expectation that the Coopers and Meaghan will meet again and that Meaghan may be the woman suited to be a second mother to Jay and Lila but the subject is never brought up again in the rest of the series. Sadly, Meaghan just disappears.
The Secret of the Desert Stone book #5
Ordinarily, big rocks don’t just move themselves overnight. Especially ones two miles high, carefully carved, excavated and wedged between two cliffs. The new dictatorship of Togwana is furious because it cuts off from their control the people in the western half of the country. The Coopers have been hired to remove the stone but when they crash land on the other side they discover a people praising God for the stone of protection. These people have never been taught by a missionary, read the Word of God, or heard the Gospel yet the people have received visions explaining the gospel to them and promising water and a Bible. If the Coopers side with the villagers (which of course, they will) will they escape the wrath of the evil dictator (I’m sure you can guess that one too)?
When I read the series at age 11, this was my favorite but when I reread the book a couple years ago at age 17, I was disappointed. Something was missing. The story just fell flat. There were parts that I really liked but it was impossible for me to get past the charismatic theology that colored the entire book. It drew out some beautiful gospel-imagery (“the stone that the builder’s rejected has become the chief cornerstone”) but the picture of the gospel is distorted. Salvation comes not by dreams but by the written Word of God (Heb. 1:1).
If you read “the secret of the desert stone” as a fantasy novel, it’s a fair one, but if you take it as the could-be-true novel it presents itself as, you will run into major theological problems.
The Deadly Curse of Toco-Rey book #6
Deep in the jungles of Central America, in the burial tomb of Kachi-Tochetin, lies a hidden treasure reportedly worth more than gold but is guarded by the deadly curse of Toco-Rey. Those attempting to excavate the treasure soon turn green and loose their minds, morphing into ferocious, uncontrollable beasts, a sort of “Incredible Hulks of the jungle”–only there’s no going back once “it” takes over your mind. Dr. Cooper finds both his faith and his integrity tested as he battles against unknown evils, hostile natives, the kidnapping of his two children and finally, the disease itself.
Breath-taking. I enjoyed this one at 11 and again at 17. Not a book I would recommend for young readers or readers prone to fearfulness. I made the mistake of starting the book in the evening and found–even at 17, knowing the ending– that it wasn’t a book I could “sleep on”. But for those children who can make it to the end, they will find a rewarding denouement in which faith in God valiantly conquers fear.
The Legend of Annie Murphy book #7
Ask any of the kids near Bodine, Arizona. That graveyard is haunted. Back in 1885, the Murphy mine hit turned golden and Annie Murphy turned green with greed and shot her husband in cold blood then escaped the night before she was to be hanged. Then several days later the sheriff who arrested her and the judge who convicted her were both found dead–shot by Annie’s revenge-thirsty ghost. Well, at least that’s what all the legends say. Now a hundred years later Annie Murphy has supposedly come back to haunt the ghost town of Bodine once again.
Most serious-minded folk brush the whole affair off as nothing but campfire tales but then there’s those strange carvings on the side of the cliff that keep appearing overnight, massive, skilled carvings that depict events from Annie’s past, carvings that seem to be communicating hidden messages of some kind, but who could possibly have carved them? Not to mention the area’s strangely disrupted gravity and magnetic field. Sometimes the water in a nearby pond is deepest on the north end and sometimes on the south end. Even the ancient Indians regarded the area with respect and mysticism.
Dr. Cooper and his two children, Jay and Lila, team up with astrophysicist professor Richard MacPherson to investigate a possible scientific explanation for it all, unwittingly getting caught somewhere between the past and the present in a mind-blowing unfolding of God’s plan across and beyond time and space.
In the top-three of the series. An amazing sci-fi thriller that beautifully illustrates the conjunction of the sovereignty of God with man’s “free choice”, the two working in perfect harmony with one another, man not being forced to act contrary to his desires yet his desires always coinciding with the plans of God. This one would make a fascinating movie. My brother and I still talk about “how cool that book was”.
Flying Blind book #8 (renamed “Mayday at Two Thousand Five Hundred Feet”)
What begins as a pleasure flight with his Uncle Rex suddenly turns into the greatest crisis of 14-year old Jay Cooper’s life when his Uncle’s Cessna gets caught in the turbulence of a low-flying 757, the plane’s sudden rolling knocking his Uncle unconscious and himself blind. A crew on the ground is quick to come to Jay’s aide but Jay quickly discovers that he can’t rely on his senses to fly the plane–that the movement he feels is inaccurate and unreliable without his eyesight. While the fuel gage flashes near empty and a mountain range looms ahead unseen by him, he must rely entirely on the control tower’s instructions to keep the plane level.
But what about landing? The voice in Jay’s headset urges him to land in the water where a rescue team will be on the spot to get him out. But that would mean leaving his still-unconscious uncle to die in the sinking plane–there won’t be time for Jay to unbuckle them both. Jay could attempt an actual landing at Boeing airport but the chances of him successfully landing the plane blind and them both surviving are next to nothing…
The plot in this one is very simple and straightforward but I was on the edge of my seat the entire way, trying to swallow the lump that was growing in my throat. Emotionally charged, fast paced and hinged on a life-or-death ethical dilemma, this adventure goes down as one of the top three for the series. It would make an excellent read-aloud for the whole family with several great discussion points.
I prefer the original title “Flying Blind” because it captures one of the book’s strongest themes: of faith that is “blind” not in the sense that it is irrational but in the sense that it is grasping onto the words of a Voice outside of ourselves that often goes against everything we sense and feel. Emotions can lie. Our hearts can deceive us. But the Word of God is sure. In this case the words Jay heard were not infallible which brings me to the second thing that I loved about this book and brings the tears back into my eyes even as I casually thumb through the pages.
Situational Ethics has gained a lot of traction in our day, especially in the abortion debate. When faced with the decision of life-and-death for two people, modern culture shouts to certainly save one rather than doubtfully save both and in the case of both a mother-at-risk and a boy and his uncle going down in a plane, this decision in made by the stronger of the two people at risk.
Jay’s decision to forfeit his own certain deliverance in order to possibly save his Uncle is seen as foolishness in the world’s eyes. This is captured by Brock from the control tower blasting over the radio: “Jay, it’s a choice I would recommend if you want to live. This is no time to be a hero.”
And yet when is the better time to be a “hero”? When it is convenient and costs us nothing? When it requires no faith, no self-sacrifice? May such old-fashioned ideas of heroism never die though the men who hold them dear do. And may we never lose our sense of admiration and aspiration for such men and women of honor.
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:12-13)