CM . . .
. Volume XXIV Number 3. . . .September 22, 2017
Gold. (Orca Currents).
Victoria, BC: Orca, October, 2017.
128 pp., pbk., pdf & epub, $9.95 (pbk.),
ISBN 978-1-4598-1481-3 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4598-1482-0 (pdf), ISBN 978-1-4598-1483-7 (epub).
Grades 5-9 / Ages 10-14.
Review by Deborah Mervold.
Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.
Less than a foot past the rock I’ve been pushing against, the slope I slid down ends – in nothing. I am right on the edge of the cliff. The pebbles my movements have dislodged bounce down and disappear in the void. They could be falling a few feet or a hundred feet. I swallow hard as I think what would have happened if the rock hadn’t stopped my slide or if the efforts to free my leg had started the rock moving. Like those pebbles, I‘d be at the bottom of the cliff, either dead or severely injured.
Sam and Annabel are in Orvieto, Italy, with Annabel’s parents. Annabel’s passion is “Pi” which is 3.14159265358979323846264.... Orvieto is also the town where Humphrey Battleford has a mansion. Because Gold is the fourth book in the series with Sam and Annabel, there are references to their past dealings with Humphrey, one in which he draws a gun on Sam. Humphrey is rumoured to have some stolen items among his extensive collection of precious items.
Sam and Annabel decide to explore in the caves outside of town. They visit the nearby town of Civita and meet Pietro who runs a small museum. As he shows them around his museum, Pietro tells Sam and Annabel the story of Nazi gold which was hidden by an evil man, Max Brunner, during the Second World War and which is believed to be in the caves. The town, originally called Ratumna, was an Etruscan settlement destroyed by an earthquake in 1695. In their exploration, Sam and Annabel encounter two unsavoury characters, Ethan and Kurt, who are searching for the Nazi gold that Kurt Brunner’s grandfather had hidden in the caves. Kurt is looking for the drawing of an eagle with which his grandfather has marked the cave.
After encountering and then being threatened by Ethan and Kurt, Sam and Annabel hurry to escape. Sam falls down a slope, and when he finally makes it back to the top, Annabel is missing. He doesn’t know if she has gone for help or has been kidnapped by Ethan and Kurt. The ground is shaky and is eroding away. Sam finds the drawing of the eagle, sees the gold and takes one bar with him. Sam then returns to get help from Pietro and finds him with Humphrey Battleford. Pietro lends Sam his bike and his dog, Percy, to go and find Annabel. Humphrey gives Sam his cell phone number and promises to send help, but Sam is sceptical that Humphrey only wants the gold.
The plot is an important element in this story. When Sam finds Annabel, he must figure out a way to rescue her, and when he is also captured, he must find a way to escape. The cell phone has fallen so he must find it in order to call Humphrey for help. Will Humphrey rescue them, or will he pursue his own purposes? How can Sam move Ethan and Kurt away from Annabel? Everything introduced into the story has a purpose. For example, Pietro sends his dog, Percy, with Sam, and Percy has an important role to play in the saving of Annabel. Another example occurs when Ethan and Kurt are overheard talking about the drawing of the eagle and then Sam finds the drawing. Also, Annabel’s passion with “Pi” has a role to play in the story. The story begins at an outdoor café in Orvieto and ends at the same café as the pair wait for Annabel’s parents.
The vocabulary is very suitable for the intended audience. The dialogue is extensive and realistic. The story is told in first person from Sam’s viewpoint. That the chapters end at a high point and often ask a question makes this an excellent read-aloud choice. Gold is is a high interest novel for middle readers and would appeal to students who like adventure, mystery, travel and realistic fiction.
Deborah Mervold is an educator from Shellbrook, SK, with experience as a high school English teacher and teacher-librarian. Presently she is involved with post-secondary education as a faculty trainer and program development consultant at Saskatchewan Polytechnic.
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