Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

The Seven Keys of Balabad

The Seven Keys of Balabad

3.6 3
by Paul Haven, Mark Zug (Illustrator)

See All Formats & Editions

Inspired by the years he spent in Afghanistan and Pakistan as bureau chief with The Associated Press, Paul Haven's intricately crafted tale is filled with details of everyday life in this remote and frequently overlooked part of the world. Loosely based on the legendary Golden Hoard of Bactria—the renowned hidden treasure discovered in northern Afghanistan in


Inspired by the years he spent in Afghanistan and Pakistan as bureau chief with The Associated Press, Paul Haven's intricately crafted tale is filled with details of everyday life in this remote and frequently overlooked part of the world. Loosely based on the legendary Golden Hoard of Bactria—the renowned hidden treasure discovered in northern Afghanistan in 1978—this fast-paced middle-grade novel will appeal to readers who like their twists and turns filled with mysterious characters, exotic locales, and an utterly relatable protagonist.

Welcome to Balabad, birthplace of the international secret society known as the Brotherhood of Arachosia—and rumored hiding place of the grandest riches the world has ever known. Balabad is also the country Oliver Finch has called home ever since his father was reassigned to this dull, war-torn dust bowl. Each day runs into the next for Oliver until a five-hundred-year-old sacred carpet is stolen. Then one of the few friends he has disappears. Oliver is determined to figure out what exactly is going on. But in order to do that he'll have to consult with a one-eyed warrior, track down the far-flung members of the Brotherhood, and unlock a centuries-old secret! Suddenly, life in Balabad for Oliver has become a whole lot more interesting . . . and dangerous.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Danny Gurkin, 11, doesn't just root for the Sluggers, he believes his support will alter their cellar-dwelling status. On game day, he follows a precise set of rituals-eating two hot dogs, fully dressed, from the same vendor, being in front of the TV for the first pitch, closing the windows when there's a righty on the mound, etc. When he learns of plans to demolish the palatial home of the former Sluggers owner, a bubble-gum tycoon, he and two friends cycle 30 miles to see it, hoping to find a way to save the mansion. During a tour, Danny pockets some hidden and foul-smelling bubble gum, which he unwraps and pops into his mouth later that day-just as his team rallies to win a game in the ninth. A newspaper story outlining Danny's superstitions-and their apparent effectiveness as the Sluggers go on a winning streak-earns him a spot in the dugout as the team's lucky charm. The rather tedious pace (and length) of the narrative diminishes the appealing elements of this baseball tall tale (which includes outlandish subplots about the poisonous relations between the bubble-gum tycoon and his brother, a legendary missing shortstop and a mayoral election). Still, there's lots of baseball action for fans, and though first novelist Haven stops the story before the fate of the Sluggers is fully revealed, the outcome is never really in question. Ages 8-12. (Apr.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature - Naomi Butler
Author Paul Haven always knew that he wanted to travel and so he moved around and became a reporter for The Associated Press. He lived and traveled in many places, including Afghanistan and Pakistan. This story reflects life in the Middle East and some of the "everyday" interesting experiences. Oliver Finch's fascinating adventures are surely based on some of those interesting and dangerous happenings. Other adventures include finding the treasures of King Agamon, the cunningly made carpet stories, the teas and exotic spices, and the Brotherhood of Arachosia. He has to consult with the one-eyed warrior and track down the Brotherhood—which is a story in itself. The beginning chapter designs, the print fonts, the colors on the cover and jacket, all contribute to taking the reader to the middle East. The story is loosely based on the legendary Golden Hoard of Bacteria—the renowned hidden treasure discovered in northern Afghanistan in 1978. Welcome to Balabad! Reviewer: Naomi Butler
Children's Literature
If you are a baseball fan then you know that a lot of players are superstitious. It turns out that many fans are too: They might wear the same shirt to each game or go through a special routine to make sure that they do not bring any bad luck to their team. Baseball and its superstitions are the focus of this mystery. The Sluggers have not been a winning team for more than 100 years—107 to be more precise—but they still have loyal fans. One of them, young Danny Gurkin, loves the team and has plenty of ways that he shows his support. He always eats two hot dogs with everything before the first pitch, makes sure the windows are closed, and other such superstitious actions. Danny, his two friends, and a strange cast of characters (one of whom is a 126-year-old man) manage to save the mansion of the Slugger's founder, who was a bubble gum millionaire. That sticky stuff is also an essential element in this story when the reader must suspend belief and just enjoy a tall tale with a baseball focus. You will root for Danny and perhaps the Sluggers, who finally have a chance to turn their century old loosing streak around. 2006, Random House, and Ages 8 to 12.
—Marilyn Courtot <%ISBN%>037583348X
Eleven-year-old Danny Gurkin has become famous in his home town for the many superstitious behaviors that he practices to help the local baseball team. As described in a local newspaper story, before each game Danny buys two hot dogs from his favorite vendor, adjusts the amount of mustard according to the starting pitcher, then races home before the starting pitch to sit upside down on the couch, close the windows tight, cross his fingers, and hold his breath at key moments. But despite the rabid loyalty of Danny and other fans, the Sluggers are perennially mired in last place. Convinced that the team is suffering a decades-long bad-luck jinx that will remind Red Sox fans of the "Curse of the Bambino," Danny persuades his best friends, Lucas and Molly, to join him in a daring expedition to explore a crumbling mansion where a long-ago tragedy might still be haunting the team. When the Sluggers unexpectedly begin winning, many suppose that Danny's well-publicized superstitions are finally bringing results. Only Danny knows that the Sluggers turnaround began when he found a secret substance in a hidden room of the mansion. This first novel by a veteran journalist recreates a sense of the single-minded devotion that Americans felt for major league baseball before steroids, free agency, and the growing popularity of other team sports detracted from the "national pastime." Haven's quirky, nostalgic, and occasionally humorous portrayal of a boy's obsession with sympathetic magic in the service of a baseball team will be appreciated by middle school sports fans. VOYA CODES: 3Q 3P M (Readable without serious defects; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8). 2006, RandomHouse, 320p., and PLB Ages 11 to 14.
—Walter Hogan
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-Eleven-year-old Danny Gurkin is a devoted Sluggers fan, even though the team has won only one championship in its 108-year history (and that took place in their very first season). Hope and superstition are the hallmarks of their doggedly loyal fans. During the season, Danny's life is dictated by a complex web of superstitions that dictate how and where he'll watch the games (always avoiding the wrong side of the sofa), what he'll wear, and what he'll eat (two hot dogs, though the toppings vary by circumstance: a rookie pitcher calls for extra onions, for example). Haven's first novel will delight readers with its whimsically exaggerated detail as he simultaneously celebrates and winks a knowing eye at baseball's cherished folklore and superstitions. The intricate plot, which begins with "the curse of the poisoned pretzel," will keep readers on the edge of their seats right up to the glorious finale set during baseball's fall classic. Mysteriously odd characters disappear and reappear. Danny, his friends, and the Sluggers themselves are lovable underdogs, comically earnest, and recognizable to baseball fans everywhere. Haven's quirky style with an eye for oddball detail and comic hyperbole will remind readers of Roald Dahl and Eva Ibbotson.-Marilyn Taniguchi, Beverly Hills Public Library, CA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Intrepid heroes preserve the peace of a war-torn Muslim country in this adventuresome Boy's Own-type treasure hunt. Stuck in the Afghanistan-esque country of Balabad thanks to his journalist father's assignment, Oliver Finch is as bored as only a 12-year-old can be. He misses the New York Yankees and movie theaters, and only his Baladi friend Zee and carpet salesman Mr. Haji make his sojourn in the country bearable. But that all changes when Balabad's most valuable artifact, the Sacred Carpet of Agamon, is stolen from a local mosque-and it seems that Zee and Mr. Haji have unexpected connections to the theft. Zee and Oliver's sleuthing is interwoven with the history of the carpet, an adventure in its own right that details the story of Bahauddin Shah, trusted advisor to the last king of Balabad. In a decisively non-Indiana Jones touch, the adventurers' success is more due to the work of the Baladis than to any efforts of the visiting New Yorker. A cluster of likable stock characters and whip-wielding warriors keeps the endearing plot moving. (Adventure. 10-12)

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
7.66(w) x 5.36(h) x 0.73(d)
880L (what's this?)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

The Seven Keys of Arachosia

Bahauddin Shah stumbled through the darkened passageway, gripping the cold stone wall for balance and keeping his head low to avoid the rocky ceiling. The sound of his footsteps echoed back at him through the gloom, and his heart thumped beneath his loose-fitting shirt.

The old man wore a heavy iron key chain around his belt, and it weighed down on him in more ways than one.

There was so little time!

Bahauddin held a small lantern in his right hand that threw his shadow onto the dark red wall above him, making his face seem impossibly long and his beard even thicker than it really was, which was pretty thick indeed. The shadow would have scared the living daylights out of anyone who'd seen it, except there was no daylight down there, and certainly nobody living to be scared of it.

The tunnel twisted and turned. Every once in a while smaller passageways veered off at odd angles into the darkness. Sometimes Bahauddin came out into vast open rooms that rose up into shapeless voids. There were even enormous darkened ponds, wretched and foul-smelling, like the stink of rotten eggs.

Bahauddin covered his nose with a piece of old cloth and tried to stay focused. A man could easily get lost in the Salt Caverns.

In fact, that was the whole idea.

But Bahauddin would not get lost. He knew every corner of this underground world, and his old body pulled him toward the exit like a falcon returning to his master's arm.

Bahauddin had just turned into a wet, narrow passage and was examining some black markings on the wall when the thud of cannon fire above him jolted him to the ground. Debris rained down from the ceiling as he knelt on the floor, catching his breath.

His hand groped for the key chain, and he smiled when his fingers felt the cold iron.
They were all there. All seven of them.

The blast that had knocked Bahauddin to the ground could not have been more than twenty feet above him. He was nearly at the surface.

For the first time, Bahauddin allowed himself to think what he would find up there, twelve hours after he had set off on the most important mission of his life. What would be left of his city, his family, the palace?

"It does not matter," the old man reassured himself, brushing his clothes off in the darkness. "Baladis are survivors. We will rebuild. It just might take some time."
The outsiders would eventually lose interest, just like all the other outsiders who had come before them, Bahauddin thought.

Balabad's great defense was that it was impossible to hold on to, and any rational outsider eventually came to the same conclusion. There were vast deserts in the south, impossibly tall mountain ranges in the east, endless plains in the west, and ten thousand feuding tribes in the north, all angry about some _long-_ago slight, and all willing to drag a foreigner into their squabbles.

Of course, it usually took a decade or so before the invaders would see that it was not worth sticking around, for invaders do not easily give up.

Bahauddin reached the end of the narrow passageway and held his lantern above his head. A small shaft ran straight up from the stone ceiling, about the size of a chimney and just big enough for a man to climb through. You would never have seen it had you not known where to look.

A deep smile creased Bahauddin's face. He clamped his teeth around the lantern's metal handle and jumped as high as he could. His fingers barely gripped a thick iron rung, the first in a series of handles hammered into the red and pink salt rock, so long ago they'd become a part of it.

Bahauddin grunted as he pulled himself up, his strong hands climbing the rungs one after another and his legs dangling below him. He could feel the warmth of the lantern through his beard and hoped it wouldn't catch fire.

This really was a job for a much younger man, Bahauddin thought, but he would have to do. In any case, a much younger man would not have known the secrets of the Salt Caverns. A much younger man most certainly could not have been trusted to take the king's most prized possession into the bowels of the earth, and then to seal the Royal Vault shut. A much younger man would have valued his life too much to return to the surface and to almost certain death.

There was more cannon and musket fire from above, and it was louder now, closer. Bahauddin gripped the cold rungs as hard as he could. He could hear the screams of townsfolk above him now, the fall of horses' hooves, and the angry shouts of soldiers. He took a deep breath and continued to climb.

Waiting somewhere in all that chaos were the king's seven sons, young men whose very lives depended on Bahauddin's success. Each clutched a _hand-_drawn map of the known world, and each had been assigned one of Agamon's seven fastest stallions. Bahauddin prayed he would not be too late.

At the top of the shaft was a large iron cover. Bahauddin released the lantern from his teeth and let it fall in a streak of suicidal light—one second, two seconds, three seconds—until it shattered against the passageway below.

No matter. He would not need it anymore.

The old man took one hand off the last rung and pushed up on the iron cover. It took all his might to ease it aside.

Bahauddin Shah, patriarch of the Shah clan, most trusted adviser to King Agamon the Great, and sacred keeper of the Seven Keys of Arachosia, clambered up into the daylight.

Meet the Author

Born and raised in New York, Paul Haven joined The Associated Press, working and living in Colombia, New York, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Spain. He currently lives in Cuba with his wife and children.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews

Seven Keys of Balabad 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Still_Reading_KidLit More than 1 year ago
We read this for Battle of the Books. Characters and plot were thin and not believable. The kids on our team found it lackluster.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Marion_G More than 1 year ago
Wonderful! This book was a revelation, by far the best thing I¿ve read with my son in the past year. It weaves the present day story of three unlikely friends _ a streetwise New Yorker named Oliver, an upper class wit called Zee and a hardscrabble and exotic beauty named Alamai _ with a mesmerizing 500-year-old mystery. The writing is rich and colorful, the characters unforgettable and the adventure so gripping we finished reading it in less than a week. Now my son is insisting we read it again. What a find! - Marion