________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 1 . . . . August 29, 2008

cover X Doesn’t Mark the Spot: Tales of Pirate Gold, Buried Treasure and Lost Riches.

Ed Butts.
Toronto, ON; Tundra Books, 2008.
78 pp., pbk., $16.99.
ISBN 978-0-88776-808-8.

Subject Heading:
Treasure troves-Canada-Juvenile literature.

Grades 5-8 / Ages 10-13.

Review by Thomas F. Chambers.

***½ /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.


Would those men, who were undoubtedly poor, have buried the woman with a costly ring on her finger? It seemed far more likely that they would have cut the finger off. Then the story took an even more sinister turn. Was the woman actually dead when they found her? Could it be that she had been alive, and they had murdered her for the ring? This was the beginning of the legend of Mrs. Copeland's ghost. It is said that she appears to visitors on Sable Island, dripping seawater. She raises one hand and shows the bloody stump where the finger was hacked off. She says that she was murdered for her wedding ring and that she cannot rest until it is restored to her. Then she vanishes.


As the title suggests, X Doesn't Mark the Spot is about the search for hidden treasures. The thought of getting rich makes some men behave in unusual ways. Greed often becomes the motivating force in their lives and turns some into killers and many others into fanatics searching relentlessly for the elusive pot-of-gold. Full of high drama, mystery and murder, the book has 11 chapters about such treasure seekers and their dreams, looking for riches, usually unsuccessfully, in the Atlantic Ocean and at sites within Canada from Nova Scotia to British Columbia.

      These are fanciful tales that will stir a young person's imagination and take him or her back to a simpler time when life was less complicated. As author Butts points out, those seeking pirates' loot or riches remaining after a shipwreck are similar to those hoping to strike it rich by winning a lottery. The difference is that Butts's cast of treasure seekers had to work hard for their potential reward, while those dreaming of lottery riches only have to buy tickets for theirs. In both cases, most are disappointed. Just as most lottery ticket buyers fail to win a penny, many of Butts' adventurers failed to find the treasures they were seeking.

      The tales vary in their degree of excitement. The most thrilling are a delight to read and should encourage young readers to search for other similar stories. One of these is about Johnny Green who attempted to find the safe of the steamer Atlantic which sank in Lake Erie in 1852. Green suffered terrible physical pain from the bends he received as a result of his dives and never benefitted from the treasure he found.

      The book is described as nonfiction, but much of it consists, as the publisher notes, of "tall tales based on little evidence." As a result, it is an example of historical fiction, with facts mixed with rumours and speculation. The dividing line between fact and fiction is often unclear.

      Ed Butts has considerable experience as a writer. He has a number of books and many magazine articles to his credit. One of his books for young readers, S.O.S.: Stories of Survival, received very favorable reviews. His writing style is perfect for young readers. X Doesn't Mark the Spot has a decent bibliography but no other teaching aids. It is suitable for recreational reading.

Highly Recommended.

Thomas F. Chambers, a retired college teacher, lives in North Bay, ON.

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

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