CM . . . . Volume XXI Number 3 . . . . September 19, 2014
Elizabeth MacLeod's Secrets Underground: North America's Buried Past can be summed up in one word: cool. From the title of the introduction ("Secrets Buried Deep Underground"), readers get the sense that they are about to encounter some top-secret, classified information. Both as a young reader, and as an adult, the thrill of being told the forbidden ensures captivated attention from the very beginning.
MacLeod uncovers little-known, or rarely discussed, moments in North American history - all of which have their origins underground. Ranging from hidden Aztec temples, to rivers of gold during the California gold rush, to the nuclear shelters of World War II, Secrets Underground explains these oft-ignored facts with enthusiasm. MacLeod's writing is successful because she does not talk down to her young readers; she does not shy away from advanced vocabulary or complex sentences, yet frames the historical narrative with the tone and engagement of a masterful storyteller. At the end of the book, she also includes a timeline, list of places to visit, and a suggested bibliography for further reading, an excellent addition for readers with insatiable and inquisitive minds.
If there is to be a criticism of Secrets Underground, it lies with the layout of the book. Like many information books for young readers, the pages are lined with pictures and sidebars, acting as references or giving extra information to bolster the main content. These add-ons are useful and well done, but they introduce new fonts and colours. Rather than offering a coherent layout, this format distracts the eye and, consequently, the reader.
MacLeod is to be commended for crafting an engaging nonfiction book for young readers. Her tone, writing style, and attention to detail ensure that readers of all ages will be gripped by the fascinating untold history of the buried past.
Jillian Sexton has an MA in Communication from Carleton University, and currently lives in Ottawa, ON. You can read more from her on her blog: www.thebookbully.ca.
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