I accidentally purchased this book out of order, as we were uncertain of the correct order when we first starting buying these. This book is book 12 in the series overall and the last book in the 4 book Dragon Quest cluster.In spite of being purchased out of order, this is quite readable on it's own. You do not have to have the preceding books, but it does help to own them all - and if your child is just learning to read, I would strongly recommend purchasing these books in order as they start out very easy to read and get progressively more difficult as you move up through the levels.
This story takes place in a Micro Park, where humans are reduced to micro size as they enter the park. The computer controlling the park has gone out of control and must be stopped. The heroes of the story are the 4 children from Project X's previous series - Team X and a new addition Mini Marvel - the daughter of the park's creator. This series also has another new character - Rex - a baby dragon who makes his first appearance in this book. This book is book band blue - stage 4. This does match up to the Oxford Reading Tree levels as well. The main text is all large, double spaced on an off white background - making this book ideal for children with dyslexia. The text is limited, only one or two sentences per page, and this book is only 24 pages in total, including phonics instruction and reading comprehension questions. This means the story is very short and simple, but it still fits in a battle with a three headed robotic dragon, the discovery of a dragons nest, and the hatching of Rex.
I think the illustrations in this book are amazing, and I quite like the idea of having children progress through each reading level in the same way they would through a video game - winning the minor challenges in each book, then defeating the boss for each cluster before finally taking on the main boss at the end of the series. I also like the fact that these books carefully build a vocabulary using almost all phonetically decodable words - making this series perfect for children who are learning to read through phonics. It introduces a new phonetic sound in each book, and this sound will be repeated with different spellings frequently. In this case the sound is the long a sound. In addition to the story, there are a few pages of phonics instruction and questions for reading comprehension. As a text book - I think this the best set I've ever seen.
But what amazes me the most about this series though is the way my children have taken to it. I knew they would like this, it is a good series, but at the end of the day - this is really a text book - part of a carefully designed phonics reading programme. I would also have assumed that my 7 year old was a bit too old for these books as his taste in reading material is usually much more advanced. But something about this series has really captivated both children. They recently recieved Christmas money from a very generous Uncle and had the choice of what to buy. I would have thought they would choose video games - or perhaps action figures or vehicles of some sort, but both knew exactly what they wanted right away - more books. To find a series that is so educational - and that children love so much is really something unusual.
I would note that the picture shown above is not the correct picture for this book. The pictured above is actually Dragon Training, which comes before this book. It does show the quality of the illustration. These books are all illustrated using state of the art computer generated imagery.
The only drawback to these books is the fact that a complete set will cost a fortune. I have buying these at £3.60 from the Book Depository. You can but them directly from the Book Depository or through Amazon Marketplace for this price, which includes postage. To buy them directly from Amazon would cost £4 each. This doesn't sound too bad, especially considering the amount of research and development that must have gone into these, and the fact that this type of illustration must have cost quite a bit as well. But when you consider that there are 14 levels and each level has 4 books + a larger introductory book - for a total of 57 books - this begins to look very expensive indeed. There is no way we could buy these all at once, and it will likely take us a some time to complete the set, but thanks to the children spending their Christmas money on these we now have or have ordered a total of 18 books and I have promised them my next dooyoo voucher for 5 more. It is a lot of money to spend, but I have always made sacrifices to provide good quality reading material and this looks like something we will get quite a lot of use from over the next few years.
I would recommend this series as story books for very young children, even as young as age 2, as my youngest has enjoyed the original Project X series from a very young age and these are short and very visual, making them suitable for very young children. If your child is beginning to read with phonics - I really do not believe a better series exists, but you could teach a child to read by sight reading with these as well - either including the pages with phonics sounds as extra information or skipping them. Finally - these books are specifically designed for children with reading disabilities or delayed reading as they are meant to be simple enough for beginning readers to decode, but interesting enough to make older children want to read. I would have questioned this claim, as personally I would not have expected a child over 8 to take an interest in these, but my oldest is getting quite close to 8 and usually has a very mature taste in books. Not only does he like these books - he has chosen new books over a new video game - so he obviously rates them quite highly. Asked to give a star rating both boys have given these books a 5, and I will as well - but only because Dooyoo does not allow a higher rating. If you do have an older child who has really struggled with reading - I would most certainly give these a try. You can read 4 books in the series for free on the Oxford Owl series - so it would be well worth showing them to the child to see if they would like to try them.
**** Note this series uses synthetic phonics but would be easy enough to adapt for analytical phonics if you wished to do so. Personally I use a combination of synthetic phoncs, analytical phonics and whole language or sight reading - and as a home educator I can adapt our studies to whatever best suits my own child. I would note that most, if not all schools are using the synthetic phonics approach so this will fit in nicely with what most children will be learning in school if your child is not home educated.