The Guardian Test (Legends of Lotus Island #1)

by Christina Soontornvat (Author) Kevin Hong (Illustrator)

Reading Level: 4th − 5th Grade

From two-time Newbery honor recipient Christina Soontornvat comes a compelling new young middle grade fantasy series for readers who love stories about animals, magic, and kids like them embracing their power to change the world.

Young Plum is shocked to discover that she's been accepted to the Guardian Academy on Lotus Island, an elite school where kids learn how to transform into Guardians, magical creatures who are sworn to protect the natural world. The Guardian masters teach Plum and her friends how to communicate with animals and how to use meditation to strengthen their minds and bodies. All the kids also learn to fight, so they can protect the defenseless if needed. To her dismay, Plum struggles at school. While her classmates begin to transform into amazing creatures, Plum can't even seem to magic up a single feather! If she can't embrace her inner animal form soon, she'll have to leave school ― and lose the first group of real friends she's ever known.

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Kirkus Reviews

Themes of friendship and environmentalism combine in this magical school story.


An enchanting eco-fable sure to intrigue and delight.

Publishers Weekly

Soontornvat (The Tryout) deftly combines a Thai-inspired setting, familiar fantasy tropes, and themes of nature conservation to craft a mystical series kickoff. Tween Plum, who's grown up on her grandparents' farm in the Santipap Islands, can hardly believe that she has been chosen to become a Guardian, part of a group of magical animalian shape-shifters who protect and nurture the natural world. She's soon sent to Guardian Academy on Lotus Island to train for her first test: discovering her animal shape. At school, Plum faces bullying based on her rural upbringing, and forges an immediate friendship with knowledgeable, take-charge classmate Cherry. Despite her quickly improving abilities, however, Plum is unsure whether she will be able to unleash her inner power. Plum's struggles with her self-worth are compassionately wrought, and her unique ability to communicate with animals and plants suitably plays into the narrative's focus on environmentalism. Descriptive scene setting and humorous dialogue offer a solid foundation for interpersonal conflicts, while Hong's animated grayscale illustrations elevate Soontornvat's leisurely unfolding, intriguing Guardian mythos. Ages 8-12. Agent: Stephanie Fretwell-Hill, Red Fox Literary. (Mar.)

Copyright 2023 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.
Christina Soontornvat
Christina Soontornvat grew up in a small Texas town, where she spent many childhood days behind the counter of her parents' Thai restaurant with her nose in a book. She is the author of many books for young readers, including The Last Mapmaker, a Newbery Honor Book as well as a Walter Dean Myers Honor Book for Teen Readers. She is also the author of the Newbery Honor Books A Wish in the Dark and All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys' Soccer Team, also a Robert F. Sibert Honor Book and a YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults finalist. Christina Soontornvat lives in Austin, Texas.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Scholastic Press
Publication date
March 07, 2023
Legends of Lotus Island
BISAC categories
JUV039060 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | Friendship
JUV037000 - Juvenile Fiction | Fantasy & Magic
JUV002000 - Juvenile Fiction | Animals | General
Library of Congress categories
Fantasy fiction

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