________________ CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 24. . . .February 26, 2010


The Archaeolojesters.

Andreas Oertel.
Montreal, PQ: Lobster Press, 2010.
192 pp., pbk., $10.95.
ISBN 978-1-897550-83-0.

Grades 4-6 / Ages 9-11.

Review by Mary Thomas.

*** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.



"If only it would rain for a week. Or something," Eric glared at the cloudless sky. "Then the rivers and lakes would rise, and people would get their butts out here."

I stared at Eric. "Or 'something'?"

"What?" Eric leaned against a towering jack pine.

"You said, 'or something'. We could make something happen."

"How are we supposed to make it rain?" Eric retorted.

"No. Forget the rain. Why wait for the weather to change? Most cars just pass right through anyway. I'm talking about making something happen here that will make people want to come to Sultana."

"What do you mean?" Eric asked.

"Okay." I took a deep breath and started over. "You know how some towns have attractions that make people visit that place? Maybe Sultana needs some sort of massive statue that people would want to come and see for themselves."

Cody and Eric have a problem: Sultana, MB, is a small town, almost too small to support the Rivercrest Inn and Diner where Eric's mother works. It survives on the tourists who come to fish, boat, and camp in, on, and by the MacFie River, but this year's heavy spring rains which tore great chunks from the riverís banks have been followed by such a drought that the river has shrunk to a trickle. No fishing, no boating, no swimming, therefore no visitors, and no customers at the diner. The boys come up with a scheme to bring people to the town: they will create an 'ancient' artifact and place it where it will be discovered by the local vet who fishes at the same spot every morning regardless of the water level. When it is publicized, they figure it should bring in scads of visitors. With a lot of help from Eric's twin sister, Rachel, they investigate Egyptian pictographs, compose and translate a message purporting to have been written in the eighteenth year of the reign of King Tuthmosis by a band of Egyptian explorers who had made their way up the Mississippi from the Gulf of Mexico.

     There were difficulties in the manufacture of their tablet, naturally, but once overcome, it was planted and discovered as planned, and, from that point, everything went much as they'd hoped. Experts poured in, including a professor from the Ancient Studies Department of the University of Manitoba and a renowned Egyptologist from Cairo. Since the kids were careful to tell the local police and newspapers about the find, the whole world learned about it, and sightseers poured in. The hoax was eventually discovered, but the tourists continued to come to look at the tablet, and there was no more talk of Eric's mother losing her job.

     The Archaeolojesters is great fun! The kids are resourceful but believably so, smart but not too smart (though Rachel borders on it!). It is pleasant that the grown-ups are not completely stupid, with the possible exception of the Egyptologist. He was so keen to believe the proof that his ancestors had managed to navigate the Atlantic crossing and discover America that he is blind to any inconsistencies. The most unconvincing of the characters is, in fact, the one who did discover the children's part in the trick, but as he is essential to the plot, he needs to be excused a certain degree of omniscience, not to mention being in the right place at the right time. Someone had to find them out, and he did, with very satisfactory consequences for all concerned (other than the poor Egyptologist). The Archaeolojesters is a good, solid, well written adventure story that kids will really enjoy. So will their parents.


Mary Thomas works in an elementary school library in Winnipeg, MB, but has worked at the University of Manitoba in the past, although not in the non-existent Department of Ancient Studies.

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

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