Explorer Academy Vela: The Sailor Cipher (Book 1)

Explorer Academy Vela: The Sailor Cipher (Book 1)
Publisher Name
Natgeo under the stars
Age Range
Release Date
April 23, 2024
Sailor York and the daring recruits of Explorer Academy uncover an elusive animal-smuggling ring in the first electrifying book in this new companion series.

Soon after Cruz, Sailor, Emmett, and Lani return for their second year at Explorer Academy, their sense of calm is shattered when Sailor’s older sister goes missing. Amidst incredible expeditions to far-flung destinations and competitive classes, Sailor bravely steps into the lead to discover how her sister’s sudden disappearance may be linked to an illegal and deadly animal-trafficking ring.

Despite winning the prestigious North Star Award and being surrounded by close friends and teachers who she has traveled the world with, Sailor’s never felt less sure of herself. As the team faces puzzling obstacles and follows complex clues aboard the new ship, Vela, Sailor grapples with a secret of her own. Will she risk everything and choose to embrace her destiny?

Editor review

1 review
Teaming up to save wildlife
Overall rating
Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
What worked:
This book is a spin-off of the original Explorer Academy series but this time it features Sailor, a young girl from Australia. The previous books focused on Cruz and he’s still part of the narrative along with most of the other students readers have come to know. A curious twist is Sailor’s secret ability to read the minds of animals she encounters. She doesn’t know if the animals can read her mind too but her grandmother warned Sailor not to use this ability. She doesn’t know the reasons behind her grandmother’s warning but she won’t tell her friends or her other family members. Reader interest will be tickled by Sailor’s hidden ability as they anticipate its possible development. The author also adds two opposing secret organizations to the book for an ongoing conflict, similar to what was found in the original Explorer Academy series.
Science fiction lovers will enjoy the book because of the multitude of cool inventions. The book opens with Sailor and Cruz testing a new communication device that allows people to listen and talk to bottle-nosed dolphins. Students head to the CAVE where they learn from virtual, real-life scenarios from anywhere in the world. All students wear academy uniforms with various abilities including camouflage. Cruz still has his robotic bee that is used for surveillance and other tasks while Sailor is gifted with a similar robotic butterfly. Emmett still wears the glasses he invented so other characters and readers will have a sense of his thoughts and feelings when the colors change. New technology is constantly popping up on the Vela and readers will need to remind themselves that it’s all found on this ship. Pages at the end of the book connect actual people and technology to references in the book.
The purpose of the academy remains dedicated to animals and the environment so readers will learn about and appreciate the importance and wonder of nature. The academy’s big project for this school year is tagging monarch butterflies to track their migratory patterns. It doesn’t sound overly exciting but the author adds a twist later in the book to spice things up. The student teams travel to the Caribbean Sea where they’ll create their own independent studies. Readers will learn about the fascinating history and ecosystem found within the Great Blue, a deep hole that formed after melting following the Ice Age. The characters will use revolutionary diving suits and will be transported to the bottom aboard the academy’s newest, most advanced submersible. Information about flora, fauna, and geography is seamlessly woven into the plot without making the story feel educational.
What didn’t work as well:
The are a few pages depicting Sailor’s journal entries but they’re not necessary. They don’t add much more to what’s already been said so the story can easily be enjoyed without them. However, they’re shown in full color which brightens the book along with all of the other vibrant illustrations.
The final verdict:
The characters will be familiar to fans of the original Explorers Academy and the focus on Sailor adds a wonderful twist. Overall, I highly recommend this to lovers of science and the environment.
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