________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 1 . . . . September 1, 2006


Lost Treasures: True Stories of Discovery.

Larry Verstraete.
Toronto, ON: Scholastic Canada, 2006.
185 pp., pbk., $7.99.
ISBN 0-439-95739-7.

Subject Heading:
Treasure troves-Juvenile literature.

Grades 4-8 / Ages 9-13.

Review by Linda Ludke.

***½ /4


August 2, 1993, was a discouraging day for the crew of the fishing trawler, The Mistake. In water 91 metres deep, 80 kilometres south of Louisiana on the choppy Gulf of Mexico, the ship’s net snagged and caught on something - an overhang, maybe. Or an outcropping for rock, perhaps. The winch growled and complained as it tugged, straining to loosen the net. When the net finally snapped free and the winch returned to its familiar purring, relief spread among the crew.

It was short- lived. The expensive net was torn, and as it surfaced, its contents spilled into the water like the insides of a gutted fish. The net would have to be repaired – another setback to an already sour day. And the contents? Not fish at all, but chunks of rocks. Hundred of them. Worthless and trickling out of the net into the sea.

The gutted net was hauled out of the water and the crew readied itself to dump the remaining debris overboard. Suddenly one of the men cried, “Coins! Coins!”.

From legendary discoveries like King Tutankhamen’s tomb, to a long-forgotten Babe Ruth autograph collecting dust in an attic, this high-interest book captures the thrill of the search. Brief vignettes explore what motivates treasure seekers. Barry Clifford was always fascinated by stories of Black Sam and the lost Whydah pirate ship. In 1985, after detailed research and several diving expeditions, he uncovered sunken pirate booty.

     Each of the five chapters starts with an “In Their Own Words” section. Short quotations pique interest: “I didn’t exactly hear voices, but something kept pulling me there. Something wanted it to be me that went there and found her” (Sue Hendrickson, explaining the eerie circumstances that led to her outstanding fossil find).

     “Overlooked Treasure” will inspire readers to take a closer look at castoffs. In 1885, a 14-year-old stamp collector found a one-of-a-kind discoloured stamp that later sold in 1996 at auction for $2.3 million. The oldest pair of Levi blue jeans was found in 1998 in a box of old clothing in an abandoned shack. An original Rodin painting was purchased at a thrift store for $1.99.

     There are still many discoveries just waiting to be found. Scientific “Treasure Tips” are scattered throughout the text and provide would-be seekers with help in their search: “Gravity affects objects in water just as it does objects on land. Shipwrecks and treasure tend to drift down slopes and toward the lowest points of the ocean floor”; “Often fossils are found deep below the surface, in areas of sedimentary rock where the ground has been layered in deposits from ancient seas or oceans.”

     An epilogue contains information on how to start on a treasure hunt and includes a Code of Ethics to follow. A list of terms such as “motherlode”, “pieces of eight” and “cache” are defined. Several black and white photographs show prized finds such as an Assyrian panel, T. Rex skeleton, and Etruscan urn. An index and bibliography for further reading complement the book.

     Written in an engaging manner with plenty of excitement and suspense, Lost Treasures will grab the attention of reluctant readers.

Highly Recommended.

Linda Ludke is a librarian in London, ON.


To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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ISSN 1201-9364
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