"Jake clenched his fists. Zach was sauntering down the airplane aisle as if he were the best thing since the iPod. Everyone has an archenemy, Jake thought. Luke Skywalker has Darth Vader. Harry Potter has Voldemort. Me? I have Zach.'"
Readers quickly find out that Jake is a techno-whiz kid bound for Ireland on a school trip that his father believes will help him understand his family’s roots. His encounters with bullies and classmates on the plane set the foundation for a story that continues to prove exciting when he’s called upon to rescue a child who falls off a cliff.
Visits to Irish towns and encounters with the Irish come to life in a series of descriptions that include Jake’s growing friendship with Maggie and his involvement with the promise of Spanish treasure, artifacts, and a journey that will lead him on adventure.
Hidden treasure and pieces of a puzzle bind him to his friends as his encounters with the Irish teach him about culture, family and values: “His humble, generous host family might be some of the poorest people on the peninsula, but they possessed the most valuable of commodities: family unity. Better to have family than money."
Jake helps his friend Maggie in a dance competition. (“He clasped her hands and his eyes met hers. Since the day I met you, I haven’t seen you back down from anything. Just let the music flow through you. Don’t worry about the stakes. Dance because you love dancing.”) And a host of different elements become interconnected in the progress of the tale as Jake’s sailing background and personality become part of the skills he brings to solving the puzzle.
Romance, danger, intrigue, and personality clashes between peers — all make Celtic Run a vivid coming-of-age novel, drawing direct connections between life’s changes, opportunities, strife, and the process of maturity. . . . a memorable adventure story.
Looking for a page-turner to please that younger adolescent? CELTIC RUN is a sure bet with international travel, a thrilling treasure hunt, and pursuits by a criminal cartel. This contemporary Irish escapade begins as three American teenagers in a cultural exchange program find themselves embroiled in a mystery fraught with danger. Jake, Zach and Julie, and their Irish friend Maggie are all coping with family problems that include detached parents, dictatorial parents, a disabled single parent and parental unemployment. The Americans, housed with host families in Dingle, are keenly aware that they are in a foreign country; they hone their observational skills, weigh alternative actions, and learn to think on their feet. They also join forces to organize and execute plans. Plenty of rollicking sideshows (the kind that can only happen in Ireland) shift this novel into high gear.
Zach is a big, overbearing guy with the wet-blanket potential to ruin the whole experience, and he and Jake get off on the wrong foot. Jake, whose mother is deceased and whose father is disabled, settles in with Maggie O’Connell’s family. Maggie’s father has been unemployed for two years, and he vanishes two nights every week without explanation – the same times that bandits are raiding local museums. Her mother works in a local pub, and teenager Maggie gave up Irish dancing for part-time work there. Young readers will find the Irish pub culture absorbing, especially its embrace of all ages, all the time.
Jake rescues a small child from the sea around Blasket Sound and discovers a relic from the 400-year-old Spanish Armada shipwreck. The teens are fascinated by the history behind the English defeat of Spanish Armada in 1588, and they learn that many of the battle’s artifacts are housed in the area’s museums; however, the bulk of the legendary treasure has never been found. After Jake shows his artifact to the curator of a local museum, he is promptly dismissed: “This is an old country, lad, and you can dig up all sorts of bits and bobs . . . but most of it’s just tinkers’ tin.” Jake refuses to hand over his treasure to the man for further study. The kids are no longer interested in the curator or the museum, but the curator is most assuredly interested in them. They learn that they are being followed, and the four of them close ranks to become a cohesive unit.
The inscription on Jake’s artifact points to a nearby church, so they explore ancient Skellig Michael, and Jake, master of electronic gadgets, keeps his pen-sized, fiber optic camera handy. They pick up an item of interest that is confiscated by the harbormaster, but cleverly retrieved. Teamwork pays off, and serendipity is a plentiful commodity as Jake meets an old man, “the Colonel” who turns out to be his great-uncle. Colonel McGreevy commands him to call if he ever needs assistance. The museum bandits continue their rampages on the days when Maggie’s father vanishes (coincidence?). The kids attempt to follow him into an area near Mount Brandon, but inadvertently stumble into a tinker camp. The tinker’s old tool advances the action, and insights into the travelers’ culture prove fascinating.
Julie is kidnapped and taken to Corráin Castle near Dunquin. Her rescue and a new game plan require heavy artillery and missiles along with Jake’s trusty Leatherman: water balloons, slingshots, a large-capacity water pistol, a semiautomatic disc gun, a foghorn, silly string, a radio-transmitting dog collar, flashlights, chocolate syrup, flour, molasses, vegetable oil, plastic bags and whoopee cushions (who knew?). The hunt proceeds to an underground cave. What secrets does the cave hold? Is the ancient Spanish treasure there? At this point readers learn the meaning of a Celtic Run – a clan saying: “a good run is better than a bad stand.” And run they do.
Evil-doers, double agents, gripping chase scenes, and bits of romance are woven through the novel with bracing lessons about first impressions and the fact that things are not always what they appear to be. One impression, however, remains steadfast: the role of family hardship in supporting self-reliance, self-discipline, problem-solving skills, patience, teamwork and initiative. The high-speed thriller CELTIC RUN will not only transport and enchant young readers, it will inspire them to consider life’s longer view and to double down on preparations for a meaningful future.
READERS' FAVORITE, 5 STARS, KAYTI NIKA RAET
Celtic Run by Sean Vogel is a fast-paced, action-filled coming-of-age novel in which Jake, a smart but undersized eighth grader, goes on a trip to Ireland with his arch-rival Zach and discovers much more than his Irish roots. Along with two cute girls, Maggie and Julie, Jake must solve the puzzle to find a mysterious Spanish treasure while outwitting ruthless and greedy bad guys. Filled with historical and cultural details, Celtic Run is sure to intrigue anyone interested in Ireland and gadgetry whiz kids.
Celtic Run is a super fast read easily devoured in two hours. The action starts within the first couple of pages and doesn’t stop as cars are hot-wired, cliffs are dived off of, and fears are conquered. Any reluctant readers out there would definitely change their tune after reading Celtic Run. Of course it isn’t all action; there’s quite a bit of romance as Jake goes through the throes of first love and realizes where his true feelings lie. But when things are not of a romantic or action oriented nature, Jake is constantly showing off his mental chops as he gets the four friends out of tight spots with some glue, some spit, and his ever present Leatherman multitool.
Even though it’s a middle grade novel geared to kids, Celtic Run was quite enjoyable and I’m sure there will be more than a few parents borrowing it off their child’s bookshelf.
NEW-PLAINS, WILLIAM C. THOMAS, MARCH 2013
What you notice first in Celtic Run, Sean Vogel’s first published work, is that it speeds along without much room for reflection. That’s intentional, of course. It keeps 14-year-old Jake McGreevy busy. It also keeps the reader busy as it twists around with surprising plot progression and incidental events.
There’s plenty of time for reflection toward the end of the book, but from its beginning, Jake McGreevy, on an exchange to Ireland, saves a little girl from drowning, finds a clue to a fabulous treasure, and spends the remainder of the book recovering it. Along the way, he wins a Rugby game, passes a night with gypsies, hotwires a car, steals a horse, and saves another life.
What Vogel has done here is create a real “run” of a book: the title is from a rather smart Irish saying that creates action; not stasis. Jake is internally running from memories of his father. We learn about his host, Maggie O’Connell, who’s just as bright as Jake but who’s been held back in her ambitions by the Recession. She’s running, too: trying to get out of the poverty of her circumstances. Running with them are Zach, a Neandrathal of a ninth grader whose parents insist he play football in high school; and Julie, conflicted between the submissiveness of being Zach’s girlfriend and being herself.
There’s more in Celtic Run among the adults as well: Maggie’s father is running from his inability to provide for his family; a gang of criminals pursues Jake and his friends so the gang can run away with the treasure.
But there’s running in place and running away and running toward a position. Jake learns to run toward his father for reconciliation; Maggie learns to overcome her poverty by running through it; Zach overcomes his conflict by confronting it directly; Julie seems to keep running.
Vogel, who spent some time in Ireland, knows the geography and people well and admires the flintiness of their character, which shines through in the determination and dogged work of Maggie, who would be my pick as the heroine of this story, leaving Jake behind. If Jake hadn’t done a couple of things that established him as the commanding character, she would have easily stepped into the role. She’s practical, honest, graceful, and generous. Where Jake knows electronics, physics and chemistry, she knows the human character . . . .
DEB NOVACK druidgirlsreviews.blogspot.com 4/5 STARS: "This was a mystery/adventure with a treasure hunt. Although the clues are easy enough, they have a creative and surprising touches. It was a fun time to travel around the Irish countryside. This has a good storyline and characters that race through abandoned churches, secret passages and empty museums and the characters are truly wonderful."
DEB N., REVIEWER 4/5 STARS: "This was a mystery/adventure with a treasure hunt. Although the clues are easy enough, they have a creative and surprising touches. It was a fun time to travel around the Irish countryside.This has a good storyline and characters that race through abandoned churches, secret passages and empty museums and the characters are truly wonderful. ***I received this book in return for an honest review***"
SALLY E., REVIEWER 4/5 STARS: "This was heaps of fun! Very Famous Five-esque, with a lovely rural Ireland setting, some hidden Spanish treasure, and a pack of bad guys hot on the heels of the four kids as they collect and put together the clues to find it."
SHEENA S., REVIEWER "Loved this book! Full of mystery, intrique, history and a little romance. I would recommend to any tween looking for a good read. Would be a great book for those who have trouble reading or being interested in reading."
SHINJINI M., REVIEWER "Join Jake, a 14-year-old gadget whiz, whose class trip to Ireland involves treasure, thieves, and danger. When he jumps into the sea to save a little girl who fell in, Jake returns to shore with a small box. In the box, he finds a clue for a treasure missing from the Spanish Armada. He sees these riches as his chance to fix everything that has gone wrong in his life recently - following an accident, his father was left critically injured, which forced them to sell their family house and sell the family sailboat. Jake teams up with his childhood friend and her boyfriend and class bully Zach, as well as the Irish girl with whom he is spending the summer to follow the clues and find the treasure. But treasure hunting comes with dangers - theirs takes the form of a ruthless gang of thieves who follow their every move to reach the treasure first.
"I fell in love with Jake, and found myself rooting for him, hoping that he would figure out the clues and get to the treasure before the crooks could reach it. Filled with interesting plot twists, the book is a fast-paced read that will keep you up way past your bed time. Highly recommended!"
BILL B., REVIEWER "Sean Vogel’s CELTIC RUN is an adventure for kids of all ages. Here is friendship won with a former bully, old love lost and new love won, and a page turning high adventure that often borders on the fantastic but an adventure tale that works, all set in Ireland’s stunning Dingle. Buy this book—by a dozen copies!—and send them to your friends—but keep one for yourself--CELTIC RUN is a feel good read you will want to read again."
CHRISTINE H., REVIEWER 4/5 STARS: "From its opening pages to its final chapter, Celtic Run offers readers an action-packed adventure full of romance, peer problems, and more than a little luck o’ the Irish. Set amidst a breathtaking backdrop, this story follows Jake McGreevy as he travels to the place of his ancestors for a school project only to find himself in the middle of a centuries-old treasure hunt. Armed with his trusty Leatherman multi-tool, a well-worn guidebook, and three friends (only two of whom he actually likes), Jake pieces together clues to find the loot that may be his last hope of making things right with his father. The teens battle the elements (endless gray skies, chilly summer nights—typical Ireland) and their own inhibitions to find the treasure before a gang of thieves beats them to it—or kills them all—and what they find is more valuable than they could ever imagine.
"Sean Vogel does the Irish landscape justice with his attention to detail. From the soaring cliffs that hug the coastline to the majestic make-up of Corráin Castle, readers can easily envision the juxtaposition of a peaceful country and the dangers the teens face (some of which seem very improbable, but a little willing suspension of disbelief will do the trick). Vogel’s occasional sprinkling of Irish phrases will enchant readers, leaving them with foreign words to add to their collections. Despite a few passages that suffer from awkward syntax, Vogel manages to charm his readers with his amiable protagonist, non-stop action, and witty one-liners. Readers won’t be able to help eagerly flipping the pages, reading as quickly as the characters run away from their pursuers, until they come upon the satisfying conclusion. Teens and YA-fiction lovers of all ages will find themselves cheering for Jake and his crew as they traverse the rugged Land of Éire in search of the fortune of a lifetime.
"POTENTIAL TEACHABLES: Irish words and phrases; difference between “Irish” and “Gaelic”; types of Gaelic; Ireland’s geography and brief history; Spanish words and phrases; Spanish Armada; 1588; inner monologue as indirect characterization; rising action points to build climax; landscape as character; words to enhance imagery."
ANN K., REVIEWER "Loved this book. What a great adventure story gor young teen readers. Combines adventure , lost treasure, first love and a trip to Ireland. Great read for adults too. Hope there are additional titles with these young adventurers."