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“If you care for your people, you must care for the world they live in. Without the plants and animals of our islands, we humans will not last very long,” Master Sunback. –The Guardian Test

The Guardian Test

Legends of Lotus Island #1

by Christina Soontornvat
AR Test, Good for Reluctant Readers

At A Glance
Interest Level

Reading Level
Number of Pages

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, which are magical creatures 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. The kids also learn to fight, so they can protect the defenseless. 

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.  

In The Gradian Test, Plum narrates her experiences at the Guardian Academy. While there, Plum feels like an outsider who doesn’t belong at the academy. One reason Plum feels this way is because mean girl Rella looks down on her because Plus is from a farming community. Despite the teasing, Plum feels most at home working in the garden, where she talks to the worms and plants. Plum is an extremely likable character whom readers will connect with because of her insecurities and worries. 

Several times throughout the story, the book shows the importance of meditation. In Breath class, students learn to meditate, which is an essential part of transforming into the Guardian form. During class, one of the teachers, Master Sunback, says, “Let the rest of the world fall away until there is nothing left but your breathing.” This is one area that Plum has difficulty mastering because when she closes her eyes, questions begin running through her mind. However, it is only through meditation that Plum can change into her Guardian form. When Plum finally transforms, she “just felt like . . . me.”  

The story reinforces the importance of taking care of the animals and plants that have been entrusted to our care. For example, the Guardians stop a fleet of boats from overfishing because, “The coral reef near Bidibop Island is very fragile, and your fishermen were dropping anchor, destroying coral that had been growing for thousands of years. They were also overfishing, taking far too much in their nets.” While The Guardian Test doesn’t explore this topic in detail, it highlights the importance of caring for our world.  

The Guardian Test is an exciting story that takes the reader into a beautifully imaginative world. While Plum is the only character who is developed in detail, the supporting characters are interesting and readers will look forward to learning more about all of the characters in the next book in the series, Into the Shadow Mist. The plot has enough mystery and suspense to keep readers engaged while still being simple enough that the storyline is easy to follow. In addition, black and white illustrations are scattered throughout the book to give readers a visual of the diverse characters and some of the animals that are unique to Lotus Island. The Guardian Test begins an exciting series that is perfect for fans of The Legend of Zelda 

Sexual Content 

  • None 


  • During class, Master Drew turned into “a huge muscular jaicat with an inky coat and a pair of short golden horns perched between her ears. She prowled in a slow circle around Cherry [a student] and then—before any of us could blink—she pounced on her, tackling Cherry onto her back.” Cherry is uninjured. 
  • During class, Cherry “threw herself into attacking our teacher. But Master Drew blocked every one of Cherry’s moves with speed and ease. And then, just when it seemed like Cherry was finally going to get in a kick, Master Drew grabbed her ankle and used it to flip Cherry onto the ground.”  
  • While in the forest, a leopard jumps on Plum, knocking her down. “Without even thinking, I popped my hips to knock the leopard off balance. I used my advantage to curl my knees in and push from underneath the beast. The next second I was on my feet and running.” Plum discovers that mean girl Rella is the leopard.  

Drugs and Alcohol 

  • Plum learns to use various plants such as milkfoot and other herbs to heal ailments.  


  • Dang and heck are both used once.  
  • Rella says that Plum “probably lived in a sheep pen. At least, that’s what she smells like.”  
  • While doing defense drills, Rella and Plum are paired together. Rella says, “Come on, pig farmer. Pretend I’m a bucket of slop you can’t wait to roll in.”  


  • There are “three types of Guardians: Hand, Heart, and Breath. Hand Guardians are fierce, fast and strong. . . Heart Guardians are the healers. And Breath Guardians are super chill, and they can calm people down.” 
  • Heart Guardians “have the power to mend broken bones, soothe pain, and repair damage.”  
  • The students learn how to turn into mythical creatures such as a fox bat and a gillybear. In order to transform, students need to learn how to meditate. 
  • To show the students how to transform, two Guardians “swooped their arms down, and in an instant they transformed. One became a zorahawk with broad wings and a curved beak. The other was a glister mare with a sparkling mane and powerful legs.”  
  • In a demonstration, one Guardian turns into a buttermoth and the other turns into a raccoon. “Together they knelt at the edge of one of the lotus ponds, where the sun had scorched the lotus pads a patchy brown. The raccoon placed his hand on the damaged leaves while the buttermoth fluttered her wings. Green life flowed back into the pads, healing them completely.” 
  • Two students have a dream amulet. “Parents whisper their dreams for their children into a charm or a stone and give it to them for luck.” Plum’s friend, Sam, breathes on his charm. “When he opened his hand, a soft light, like a tiny ball of starlight, glowed from the ruby gem. He held it up to my ear. I heard the faintest echoing whisper of a woman’s voice: ‘Wealth and power will flow to you like water from a rain.’” 
  • When Plum breathes on her dream amulet, Plum hears her mother’s voice. “Suddenly the white light shot straight out of the shell. It hovered like a twile-fly right in front of my face. Its light pulsed like a heartbeat.” The light leads Plum to some ancient ruins. Then, Plum “opened my fingers. The white light flickered faintly as it drifted up to my shell pendant and back inside.” Plum believes that she had been visited by her mother’s spirit.  
  • A student named Rella finds a chant written on the wall of some ruins. She uses it to transform into a leopard. The chant is “ancient magic from before the Santipapa Islands even existed.” Rella doesn’t know what the words mean, but when she says “them in the proper order, you can tap into the old magic.” When using the chants, the person feels an enormous sense of power. 
  • When Plum uses the chants, “the entire temple flooded with light. The images on the mural burst into motion. . . The tingling in my fingers surged into my arms and legs. I felt so strong like I could run to the top of the mountain or leap over trees.” While saying the chant, Plum partially transforms into her Guardian form.  

Spiritual Content 

  • None 
Other books by Christina Soontornvat
Other books you may enjoy

“If you care for your people, you must care for the world they live in. Without the plants and animals of our islands, we humans will not last very long,” Master Sunback. –The Guardian Test

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