________________ CM . . . . Volume IX Number 1 . . . . September 6, 2002

cover Hidden Worlds: Amazing Tunnel Stories.

Debora Pearson. Illustrated by Tina Holdcroft.
Toronto, Annick Press, 2002.
32 pp., pbk. & cl., $7.95 (pbk.), $19.95 (cl.).
ISBN 1-55037-744-2 (pbk.), ISBN 1-55037-745-0 (cl.).

Subject Headings:
Tunneling-Juvenile literature.
Tunnels-Juvenile literature.

Grades 3-7 / Ages 8-12.

Review by Gillian Richardson.

*** /4


The ancient Romans were the first to excavate the ground where Paris now stands. When they occupied this area, over 2,000 years ago, the Romans dug quarries and used the rock they found to make buildings and walls.

Beginning about 900 years ago, long after the Romans left, the people of Paris tunneled deeper into the ground. Today, a great silent world exists under the city - its tunnel and chambers are over 186 miles (300 kilometers) long. (From a caption)

The people of Paris decide the patched-up quarries are the perfect place for a new cemetery. Skeletons from the overflowing cemeteries are brought underground. As other people die, they're buried here too. Soon this calm, still place, called the Paris Catacombs, holds millions of bones. (From the text)

Unusual tunnels from history which were used for such purposes as transportation, escape, mining and secret entry are described in this 32 page collection for recreational reading. All the tunnels, with the exception of one in the mythical tale of Theseus and the Minotaur, actually existed or still exist. All tunnels were man-made, with the exception of the mole's excavations (which seems rather out of place in this grouping). Each account is presented in a visually appealing, double-page spread with numerous facts and well-captioned, cartoon-style illustrations in watercolour that dominate the pages. Two sections include simple activities. The examples are arranged chronologically from ancient past to present.

internal art

     The book contains a brief introduction, a Table of Contents with characters and captions to pique curiosity and a warning to kids about the dangers of tunneling. Following the main text which reads briskly like magazine articles, four pages of additional information flesh out the details. For example, "An Underground Escape" describes the digging of the tunnel to freedom by World War II prisoners in Stalag Luft III while the back matter explains the clever way the men disposed of the sand so it would not be detected. The author uses present tense for a "you-are-there" feel throughout the main text (except for the myth) and past tense for illustration captions and back matter.

     While the vocabulary is accessible at about a grade 4/5 reading level, this is also a good read-aloud choice with sufficient "wow" factor material to intrigue young listeners (even adults) and to initiate discussion or research. Many of the tunnels will be unknown to kids. Only a couple of them are still active: the mail system still used in Prague after 100 years, and the salt mine in Poland. However, kids could be motivated to compare tunnels they have heard of or might actually visit, eg. undersea car tunnels, the subway, railroad spiral tunnels, etc.

     A couple of websites are included in the back matter: they were still active at the time of this writing. An index and extensive acknowledgments complete this interesting book.


Gillian Richardson is a former teacher-librarian and a published children's writer of fiction and nonfiction, living in BC.

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

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Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364