You pick up the brightly colored book lying on the table and open it near the middle. What’s this book about? In 1848, the HMS Erebus and the HMS Terror set out to find the link between the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean by sailing into the Arctic waters. The ships and the crews disappeared in the Arctic. The search to find them went on for 11 years. It wasn’t until 2014 that one of the ships was found; the second was found two years later. The captain’s nickname was “the man who ate his boots.” What happened to them? Facts are presented, theories are offered, and the accompanying illustrations make everything real. (pages 50–53)
Turning to another page farther into the book, you come across Paul Kruger, who was president of South Africa from 1883 to 1900. He led the resistance to British rule near the end of the Anglo-Boer War. He gave orders to bury the national treasury, “millions of dollars’ worth of gold and silver bars, coins, and diamonds,” if the British attacked Pretoria, the capital, in 1900. No one knows what happened to that treasury. The short write-up offers “the details, the clues, and the theories,” among photos and drawings, the format for the entire book. (pages 122–125)
It’s an exciting, fast-paced book, presenting teasers of information that will inspire further research. Many of the mysteries are new to this reader. Some of them are familiar but I learned more in this compact presentation than I had known before.
China’s clay warriors, with a wonderful drawing of the burial plot, labeled with particulars such as “secondary palaces” and “office for sacrificial offerings.” What have scientists discovered? What about the curse that some believe was cast over the site?
King Tut’s tomb? Lord Carnarvon, its discoverer, is said to have died from this tomb’s curse … from an infected mosquito bite. Or did the tomb contain killer toxins? Details, clues, and theories. A photo of Carnarvon and Howard Carter draws the reader into the tomb. (pages 126–129)
Crazy craters in northern Russia, the Uffington White Horse in England, the lost city of the Turquoise Mountain in Afghanistan? There’s even an interview with a modern-day National Geographic Explorer, Jørn Hurum.
This book will set imaginations on fire. It’s perfect for every reader because the content and the format make it irresistible for dipping in and getting lost inside the information. It would make a satisfying read-aloud on a car trip, a good conversation starter at home or in the classroom, and a great gift for anyone ages 8 and up.
Good news: once this book has been devoured, there’s a companion title, History’s Mysteries: Curious Clues, Cold Cases, and Puzzles from the Past, also written by Kitson Jazynka.
Go for it!
History’s Mysteries: Freaky Phenomena
National Geographic Partners, LLC, 2018