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The Secret Cave: Discovering Lascaux

Overview

Jacques, Jojo, Simon, and Marcel were looking for buried treasure when they explored a cave in the south of France in 1940. But the treasure inside was not what they expected, and in fact far more valuable: the walls were covered with stunning prehistoric paintings and engravings, preserved within the sealed cave for over 17,000 years. This is the true story of the boys who discovered the cave of Lascaux, bringing to the modern world powerful examples of the very beginning ...

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Overview

Jacques, Jojo, Simon, and Marcel were looking for buried treasure when they explored a cave in the south of France in 1940. But the treasure inside was not what they expected, and in fact far more valuable: the walls were covered with stunning prehistoric paintings and engravings, preserved within the sealed cave for over 17,000 years. This is the true story of the boys who discovered the cave of Lascaux, bringing to the modern world powerful examples of the very beginning of art.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"In The Secret Cave, Caldecott Medal-winner Emily Arnold McCully reconstructs this exciting episode through engaging watercolor illustrations that capture the bright beauty of the craggy French countryside, the dank unknown as the boys made their way through narrow underground passages, and the stirring ancient art that the boys' dim lights suddenly revealed."The Washington Post

"Part Hardy Boys, part archeology, this mesmerizing look at the discovery of the prehistoric cave paintings of Lascaux invites today’s readers to experience the wonder of the event... The Caldecott winner gets the emotions of the secret descent for buried treasure just right." —Kirkus Reviews, STARRED

 

"The illustrator copies the cave paintings with a sensitive touch that is somehow both impressionistic and exact, capturing the vitality and gestural grace of each line…A kid-centered approach to a wonderful tale."—School Library Journal, STARRED

"McCully's own handsome paintings vary from crisply defined characters and events above ground to dark, impressionistic scenes within the cave, where the art and its discovery come dramatically to life. An excellent introduction to this extraordinary site, and to the effect such discoveries have on our understanding of the past." Horn Book Magazine

"…a serviceable introduction for young listeners, with luscious watercolor renderings of the cramped, inky passageways vying for oohs and aahs with recreations of the startlingly realistic animal paintings themselves." BCCB

"McCully’s text builds suspense in moment-by-moment descriptions of the boys slithering through narrow, dark, subterranean passageways, but it’s the images that have the biggest impact. The dramatically lit, mixed-media scenes evoke both the thrilling exploration and then the astonishing discoveries, reproduced in evocative, textured images."Booklist

 

Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
McCully tells the amazing story of how young Jacques Marsal, always interested in prehistory, discovers with his friends a cave with animal pictures on its walls. He realizes it must be from long ago, as his teacher had once discussed. But Monsieur Laval does not believe what they have found until he sees for himself. He declares the paintings "Glorious!" When Abbot Breuil, an expert on prehistoric art, comes to see the cave, he asks the discoverers to protect "this sacred place." Although World War II raged on, the cave remained protected and today is a popular protected tourist attraction. With expressive watercolors, McCully depicts the characters and the countryside; she also takes us into the dark cave using lantern lights to create melodramatic dioramas of the paintings and observers. She depicts many areas with a wide variety of animal images in their black and rust-colored naturalistic poses. The end pages display a plan of Lascaux, guiding us from the entrance to the Chamber of the Felines while identifying important landmarks and some of the paintings. There are added factual notes and bibliography. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
Gr 1–4—In 1940, four boys found a tunnel beneath a tree in the French countryside. Looking for buried gold, they came upon, instead, the most famous prehistoric art of all time, the Lascaux cave paintings. This book tells their story, concentrating on the days of discovery and the boys' gradual sharing of the cave's secret, first with other children in the village, then with a trusted teacher, and finally with an expert. McCully's natural dialogue and economical prose accompany her lush, accessible watercolors. Velvety blacks and rich earth tones contrast with the blue skies and tender greens of the French countryside, portraying the stillness and mystery of the caves and the boys' well-lit daily life. The illustrator copies the cave paintings with a sensitive touch that is somehow both impressionistic and exact, capturing the vitality and gestural grace of each line. Straightforward, easy-to-understand diagrams—a plan and cross-section of the cave, maps hanging on a classroom wall—help make the cave itself easier to visualize. An author's note tells what happened after the events detailed in the book and extends the history of the cave. Speculation as to the meaning and use of the paintings and details about the methods of their creation are also noted. A photograph of two of the boys and Abbot Breuil, the expert who authenticated their find, standing in the Hall of the Bulls, offers proof that the story is true. A kid-centered approach to a wonderful tale.—Paula Willey, Baltimore County Public Library, Towson, MD
Kirkus Reviews
Part Hardy Boys, part archeology, this mesmerizing look at the discovery of the prehistoric cave paintings of Lascaux invites today's readers to experience the wonder of the event. McCully has written and drawn a stunning fictionalized account based on historical records and interviews. The endpapers entice with the rendering of the maps of the caves, and soft, wide watercolor strokes capture the essence of the prehistoric art. When the action is aboveground, the realistic illustrations are her characteristic ink-and-watercolor style, but below the ground the edges soften and the images become shadowy and mysterious. The Caldecott winner gets the emotions of the secret descent for buried treasure just right, drawing readers' eyes down the tight shaft to the light of the first boy's lantern in the large art-filled chamber. In one glorious wordless spread, the boys (and readers) are filled with awe at the revelation of the pristine art. What to do with this knowledge? The boys know just whom to trust. Budding historians will be amazed by this story of curiosity and serendipity. (author's note, bibliography) (Picture book. 5-7)
Abby McGanney Nolan
McCully reconstructs this exciting episode through engaging watercolor illustrations that capture the bright beauty of the craggy French countryside, the dank unknown as the boys made their way through narrow underground passages, and the stirring ancient art that the boys' dim lights suddenly revealed. Her versions of the cave paintings are wonderfully evocative of the real things in both tone and texture.
—The Washington Post
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374366940
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 9/14/2010
  • Pages: 40
  • Sales rank: 265,302
  • Age range: 6 - 9 Years
  • Lexile: 660L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 9.10 (w) x 11.00 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

EMILY ARNOLD McCULLY has written and illustrated many children’s books, including the Caldecott Medal Book Mirette on the High Wire. She divides her time between New York City and her country home.

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