The Flight of the Silver Turtle by John Fardell is filled with explosions, inventions, espionage, secret messages, hidden treasure, World War II relics, sunken wrecks, secret rooms, a secret international evil spy ring, and last but not least, an anti-gravity machine. It opens with a “BANG!” and doesn’t stop.
During their summer holidays, Ben, Zara, and Sam are helping their great uncle with his invention, a new electric motor. They decide to take the motor for a test drive and head for the beach in the East Lothian countryside near Edinburgh. After making a wrong turn, they stumble across an aircraft hangar where Amy McAirdrie is building an amphibious flying boat she’s named the Silver Turtle. She’s very interested in Uncle Ampersand’s electric motor and suggests mounting it on her plane as she doesn’t have the skills to build engines herself. What none of them know is that during World War II, the hanger was the home of a top secret project also named the Silver Turtle and there are people anxious to get their hands on the technology developed by the former occupants of the hanger. While they are helping work on the Amy’s plane, the children stumble across an old photo taken in front of the hanger of Maskil Stribnik, a Czech refuge who worked on secret aviation projects for the British government. The photo has a secret message on the back and after trying their hand at deciphering the message, the children head off to the Royal Museum, now part of the Chamber Street Museums, where Stribnik had an office. They manage to decipher the message using an old typewriter they find in Stribnik’s office and as they are leaving a man in a mask tries to steal the photo, wanting to know what they have discovered. The children manage to escape, but the next day as they are sitting in the plane getting ready to take it for a test drive, an elderly woman appears gasping “[h]elp me inta the plane!” As the bewildered children help her, the bad guys suddenly appear and start shooting, the children start yelling, the strange woman launches the plane, and that’s when the adventures really start!
The Silver Turtle doesn’t contain modern navigation gear, so the children navigate the plane using such must see Edinburgh landmarks as Arthur’s Seat in Holyrood Park to find St. Margaret’s Loch. Their adventures take them to the Chamber Street Museums, up the Royal Mile and past the Palace of Holyroodhouse and Scottish Parliament making the book a fun way to interest your child in the historic sights of the city.
The themes of the story are a little older, definitely aimed at the 10-12 year old crowd. However, while some of the nuances were (thankfully) over my 6 year old son’s head and I think he completely missed the Nazi references, he loved the fast paced action. The beginning is a little slow, but a few chapters in he wanted to sit down and listen to the entire thing in one sitting. We’re working through it a chapter or two at a time and he can’t wait to listen to it every evening. When we visit Edinburgh, he definitely wants to go hunting for the secret room in the Chamber Street Museums!