CM . . .
. Volume XXIII Number 27. . . .March 24, 2017
Panama Pursuit. (The Shenanigans Series; Bk. 4).
Victoria, BC: Wandering Fox/Heritage House, 2016.
197 pp., trade pbk., epub, epdf, $9.95 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-77203-097-6 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-77203-098-3 (epub), ISBN 978-1-77203-099-0 (epdf).
Grades 4-8 / Ages 9-13.
Review by Mary Thomas.
Fifteen minutes later we had all completed our introductions and mini-speeches. It was time to see some artifacts.
"We have made tremendous finds in the last three days," Sofia began. "Most notably, the discovery of crystal skull fragments by the Italian team."
A cheer went up in the far corner of the tent.
"Gee," Eric said, "I wonder where the Italian team is sitting."
"Hush," Rachel said.
"Maybe one of the Italians swiped the broken skulls," Eric said, "to take back to Athens."
"Athens is in Greece, you dummy," Rachel whispered.
"I don't care where they live," Eric fired back. "They're still suspect, as far as I'm concerned."
The three kids from Manitoba who first came on the literary scene with their really imaginative hoax that created an “ancient Egyptian” clay tablet in order to bring the tourist trade to their town and then went on, in the second and third books, to time-travel down a worm hole in the middle of three monument stones in their town's graveyard (now doing that would be a tourist attraction!) are back. This time they are not the ones doing the time-travelling; instead a mysterious someone from an unspecified future date turns up in seventeenth-century Panama, warning the local Chocoan Indians of a threat to be guarded against at the end of a very specific, very long, time period by the creation of a copy of the crystal skull which he gives them in trust, and which will save the world -- if it can be protected from some unspecified "great foreigner". The Chocoan assume this stranger will be one of the invading Spaniards, but the one to whom this was revealed does set to work and carves a copy. He breaks quite a few in the process, but the final skull is practically perfect. He also starts keeping track of the time. His grandson then buries both the real and the fake skulls, the Spanish threat not having come to anything, to keep them safe, and he continues to track the time.
Skip forward eight thousand moons minus 40 years to a project to widen the Panama Canal. When construction crew uncover archaeological artifacts, experts are called in quickly to investigate, and a summer camp for students is set up to help with the dig. The German archaeologist, whom Cody, Eric, and Rachel had helped previously in their worm-hole adventure by rescuing his daughter Anna from being stranded in the past, manages to convince the children's parents that this is an educational experience not to be missed, and they are allowed to join in. What Bruno, the archaeologist, actually wants is the children's help in clearing Anna's uncle from the charge of having stolen the fragments of two separate crystal skulls which had been dug up and subsequently stolen. What follows is an unbelievable, but fun, escapade through the Panamanian rainforest as the three solve the mystery of who really did steal the artifacts, and, in the process, ensure that the Chocoans keep the true crystal skull safe for the additional forty years required until it, according to the visitor from the now near future, will be needed to benefit, if not save, the whole world.
So -- even though the kids don't travel in time, the whole set-up is indeed fantastic. All the clues fall into their hands as required; Eric eats too much as usual; Rachel thinks; Anna keeps them on track; Cody brings it all together. And, most fantastic of all, the Indians keep perfect track of the elapsed time from the appearance of stranger to the present day. However, the resulting story is a romp that we are convinced from the beginning will involve the rich, but evil, collector's being thwarted in his attempts to abscond with the skulls, real and otherwise, and Uncle Rudi's being exonerated. Which it does, and, to be fair, not all the suspicious characters turn out to be, well, suspicious. It's an exciting and enjoyable read from page one to the very end. Kids will learn a bit about how archeologists work and a great deal about what fun it can be pulling off leeches acquired in a night trek through the rain forest. Which is to say, the yuck factor is acceptably high, the tension mounts as it ought, and Panama Pursuit is indeed a good read that kids will enjoy a lot. I did.
Mary Thomas lives in Winnipeg, MB, Bracebridge, ON, and Oxford, UK, and encountered leeches only once or twice among rocks on the St. Lawrence. A long time ago, but the memory is vivid!
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