Hello, and thanks for joining us at Tundra Telegram, the column where we dig into the burning topics floating in the ether and recommend some books to dive into and set your synapses ablaze.
This Friday (June 30), movie fans welcome back one of the film world’s greatest action heroes – Indiana Jones – with the new movie, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny. Harrison Ford will play the iconic daredevil archaeologist for the final time, as he seeks to recover a mysterious dial before former Nazis (he hates those guys), now working for the American space program, get their hands on it.
To celebrate the return of the swashbuckling Dr. Jones, we’re recommending some books for young readers that pair well with the Indiana Jones movies, whether it’s in their historic setting, love of archaeology, or penchant for bold adventure. Hold onto your fedora – we’re leaping into the breach once again!
Picture books don’t get much more action-packed than The Magician’s Secret by Zachary Hyman and Joe Bluhm. Charlie loves when Grandpa, a magician, comes to babysit because he always tells a story, inspired by an object from his Magic Story Chest. Those stories see a younger Grandpa exploring pyramids, dogfighting with the Red Baron, and even encountering dinosaurs (!), and celebrate the importance of imagination. Plus, the cover even looks like Charlie has opened the Ark of the Covenant – with much happier results.
If you love Indiana Jones, but wish he was about six feet shorter and furry, do we have the picture book for you! Dakota Crumb: Tiny Treasure Hunter by Jamie Michalak and Kelly Murphy features a daring little mouse who scours a museum at night to find important artifacts – some of which may be food items and other litter that museum-goers have dropped.
And while we mentioned Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen’s Sam and Dave Dig a Hole in the last Tundra Telegram, there’s no other picture book that more accurately reflects the process of archaeology: fewer bullwhips and motorcycle chases, more endless digging without reward, in which the digging itself is the reward.
CHAPTER BOOKS & MIDDLE GRADE
There are a number of wonderful middle-grade series that capture a similar sense of historical adventure as the Indiana Jones films, but also a few great standalone novels. One such book is Angela Ahn’s contemporary coming-of-age Peter Lee’s Notes from the Field, with illustrations by Julie Kwon. Maybe a contemporary coming-of-age story doesn’t scream “Indy,” but eleven-year-old Peter Lee wants to be a paleontologist (which is close to an archaeologist) and – like Indiana with his father (and son, Mutt) – Peter has difficult family dynamics to contend with.
What is an archaeologist, if not a grave thief? Dee Hahn takes graverobbers and makes them heroic in The Grave Thief. Twelve-year-old Spade joins the family business of graverobbing, and he likes the work. But when his father incites an audacious plan to rob a grave in the Wyndhail castle cemetery, the family falls into a royal trap and an epic adventure begins that will take both bravery and friendship to survive.
How To Promenade with a Python (and Not Get Eaten) by Rachel Poliquin and Kathryn Durst is a nonfiction book – part of an ongoing series – in which a savvy cockroach shares tips and tricks to surviving an encounter with a charming predator (in this case, a python). The book doesn’t share a lot of similarities with the Indiana Jones movies, but we would recommend it to Dr. Jones himself, given how much he hates snakes (but nevertheless seems to continually encounter them).
A series that scratches the serial adventure itch in a very satisfying way is The Explorers by Adrienne Kress. Over three books, a risk-averse boy (Sebastian) and a girl on a rescue mission (Evie) team up with legendary adventurers The Filipendulous Five (of which Evie’s grandfather is a member) for very funny but perilous tales of danger, mystery, literal cliff-hangers, and animals in tiny hats.
Like the sound of The Explorers, but want a little more secrecy in the books you read? SJ King’s The Secret Explorers series is here to help. The Secret Explorers are a group of smart kids from all over the globe who team up to fix problems, solve mysteries, and gather knowledge (and young readers learn a few facts in the process, naturally). In thirteen books (so far), they’ve searched haunted castles, traversed the Arctic, and battled plant poachers. And even better – their adventures are available en español.
The Escape This Book! series takes Jones-like adventures – in the tombs of Egypt, the Titanic (too soon?), and even outer space – and puts the proverbial fedora on young readers. That is, the readers themselves are in charge of their fates, and must doodle, decide, and demolish their ways out of some of history’s greatest events. It’s like you’re Spielberg himself, directing your favorite action hero into – and out of – danger.
We have to include the Addison Cooke series by Jonathan W. Stokes, as well, as these peril-packed books have been explicitly compared to the Indiana Jones movies. With titles like Addison Cooke and the Treasure of the Incas and Addison Cooke and the Ring of Destiny, the books feature the nephew of famous researchers and museum curators who always finds himself kidnapped by some evildoer or another on the hunt for the same artifacts as his relatives.
If you take the serialized treasure-hunting of Indiana Jones and add in a bit of fantasy and magic, you have the popular Thieves of Shadow series by Kevin Sands. Five kids with special talents are brought together to commit an impossible heist – stealing something from the most powerful sorcerer in the city. But messing with magic sets off a chain of events that lead to aquatic quests, sentient artifacts, and even dragons. The third book – Champions of the Fox – hits bookshelves this November, so there’s still time to get caught up on all the thrilling adventure.
Imagine a vault so cavernous that it could contain all the world’s greatest treasures and relics, from mummified remains of ancient monarchs to glistening swords brandished by legendary warriors. Does it remind you of the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark? Well, buried amongst the treasures in Professor Brownstone’s vaults, lie a humble collection of books, each filled with legendary stories from his ancestors. Those stories form the basis of Brownstone’s Mythical Collection by Joe Todd-Stanton. Each book is a separate, but connected adventure, as different generations of Brownstone’s family try to solve the Riddle of the Sphinx or undo the Gorgon’s Curse.
Even if you aren’t a fan of the movies, everyone knows the iconic opening scene of Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark where Indiana risks his life to get the treasure, all while facing many booby traps. Like Indiana, Cassy and her friends in Candace Buford‘s Good as Gold spend their summer hunting down some elusive treasure buried deep within their town, in a quest to get the money and save Casey’s family and her future.
In Go Hunt Me by Kelly Devos, Alex Rush and her friends like to make creepy films, and as they set off to college, they decide to create one final epic short film together. The destination? A remote castle in Romania. But just as they get the film’s first shot rolling, one of Alex’s friends disappears. Now Alex and her friends must escape the castle and its dangers, just like Indiana Jones and his father do from Castle Brunwald in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
Pankot Palace is not necessarily a hotel, but we think the Hotel Magnifique by Emily J. Taylor is just as legendary and dangerous as that setting from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. If you’re looking to be whisked away to a location both glamorous and haunting, then you’ve found your next destination.
Almost as celebrated as the opening scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark is Indiana’s line: “That belongs in a museum.” (A line that all fans know by heart, and hope will hear again in The Dial of Destiny.) Speaking of museums, Miss Peregrine’s Museum of Wonders by Ransom Riggs is the deluxe companion guide to the Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children series. Written in a way that makes you feel like you’re actually in a museum, this essential volume is ideal for anyone curious about the world of Miss Peregrine.
One of Indiana Jones’s first adventures as a kid showed him stealing the Cross of Coronado from treasure hunters in order to give it to a museum (in true Indiana fashion). While being chased by the treasure hunters, he manages to board a train loaded with circus animals and equipment. Although The Family Fortuna don’t travel by train in the book by Lindsay Eagar, they do, however, run a circus. Get ready to step out of the shadows and shine when Avita the Bird Girl devises a plan to perform the most delightful and disturbing showdown that you’ve ever seen.