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The Secret Cave: Discovering Lascaux
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The Secret Cave: Discovering Lascaux

3.69 of 5 stars 3.69  ·  rating details  ·  101 ratings  ·  30 reviews
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 wh ...more
Hardcover, 40 pages
Published September 14th 2010 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
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The cave paintings of southern France fascinate me. While this title gives the basic facts that four or five young men found the caves in 1940 and eventually archaeologists examined them, the book doesn't quite capture one's curiosity to learn more and that is what these types of titles need to do--stir curiosity in the young to explore/search for further information. The two pages of additional information are perhaps better than the text. The actual text of the book did not flow well for me.
Jacques Marsal was intrigued with the prehistoric bones and tools that his teacher showed him. When he got to see the cave paintings at Font de Gaume, he was amazed. So when he and three other boys discover a cave, they want to explore it. Following a tunnel into the earth on their hands and knees, they found an enormous cave. On the cave walls were paintings that looked like they had just been painted. They explored the cave for several days, finding paintings even down a deep shaft. Jacques in ...more
A true story of French school boys inspired by their teacher to search for cave secrets in their village on the cusp of the World War 2. The ancient artwork they discovered captured the interest and excitement of the historians and anthropologists around the world. The underground illustrations provide such a realistic sense that I even felt a bit claustrophobic on those pages. Very nice.
McCully tells the fascinating story of the 1940 discovery of the cave paintings of Lascaux. Village boys looking for adventure and treasure in World War II France venture into a tunnel that leads them to cave walls covered with hundreds of paintings and engravings sealed for about 17,000 years in the cave. McCully narrates her fictionalized recreation of this piece of archeological history simply and eloquently, using her signature paintings to support the drama and excitement of the story. Her ...more
While the book focuses more on the boys who discovered the caves than the paintings themselves, I wouldn't be surprised if this book inspired in many readers an interest in ancient art and cave paintings. Somehow, McCully manages to capture the feel of the paintings - not only the appearance and texture, but also how they must have appeared to boys searching for buried treasure. The mood of the illustrations changes between the above-ground scenes and the cave scenes, bringing the reader into th ...more
Mary Lockett
I received this book for free through First Reads. This was a beautifully illustrated and informative description of the discovery of the Lascaux Caves. My nine year old daughter and I read it together although my daughter was unimpressed by the caves..."anyone could draw those!", she said, sadly. I found that for the the right audience, children interested in discovery, art, and history, this is a great read. I especially liked the add on in the back of the book describing what happened to the ...more
"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." ...more
Atmospheric illustrations capture the awe and wonder of discovering the ancient cave art of Lascaux. McCully's book tells the story of how a group of boys found their way in to the cave in France in WWII. The concluding pages tell the denser, fact-based history of the fictionalized picture book. As a fan of picture books and a former taker of archaeology classes, I ate this one up despite the simplistic narrative. Still, it helps you understand the magic of being there at the beginning.
Copyright: 2010
Genre: Biography/Informational

This was a wonderful book about the people who discovered Lascaux. The illustrations were bright and colorful. I really liked the maps of the cave on the inside covers as well. The historical information in the back of the book was very helpful as well. The only part I was disapointed with was not seeing real color pictures of the cave. The had one big black and white photo with some of the real people depicted in the back.
Another great non-fiction picture book by Emily Arnold McCully! During WWII, 4 French boys explore a cave looking for lost gold. Instead what they find is the beginning of art with the discovery of prehistoric paintings preserved exquisitely in the cave for 17,000 years. One of the things I love about McCully's stories is the wide appeal. This picture book works for all ages. I've even preschoolers through middle school engaged by her books.

I didn't know much about the cave beforehand, but after reading this I was very interested in the topic. McCully always does an excellent job presenting her subject and this was no exception. To think this happened during the years of WWII is utterly fascinating. I wonder if anyone over found the treasure that the one boy expected to find in the caves. The afterword was every bit as informative as the text itself. Wonderful book. Well worth your time.
So interesting! The story of the discovery of the ancient cave of Lascaux. (Need I mention, once again, a picture book on something I knew nothing about!!??) Young students discovered (in the 1940's) the caves and paintings that had been sealed for over 17,000 years!!! Cave paintings are now considered the first art. How cool would it be to see those caves?? (More to read up on!) Many good science, social studies and art connections can be made.
L (Sniffly Kitty)
This is a somewhat cute semi-fictional account of the discovery of Lascaux. I think it would be an interesting read for children who are interested in history. Parents who want their children to be interested in history probably shouldn't start with this one as it reads a bit like a dictation rather than a children's book and will not necessarily incite the sort of excitement in a kid they hope to.

Disclaimer: I won this from First Reads.
Varying stories of the discovery of Lascaux exist, and McCully has created this version based on the different accounts. It's an exciting and dramatic story of a place, and an art form, that deserves the attention. A great introduction to the subject for elementary age children -- perfect stepping off point for further study (about World War II, France, cave paintings, art, preservation . . . ).
So cool! I remember learning about the Lascaux cave paintings in art history; I had no idea they were accidentally discovered by a group of boys. With the Author's Note stating, "No photograph can possibly convey the spellbinding power of an actual painted cave," I now want to travel to see some! Also includes a Bibliography and the always-lovely watercolor paintings of Emily Arnold McCully.
A somewhat awkward translation of a true story to a picture book. But while the text could be better, the pictures and storyline -- the discovery of a cave in France filled with amazingly preserved prehistoric paintings -- held my kids' and my interest. The Author's Note at the end, with more information about the cave's history, is as interesting as the book itself.
Gwen the Librarian
This simple retelling of a great archeological find, made by children, should delight many young readers and pique their interest in learning more about the caves of Lascaux. McCully's illustrations beautifully honor the original cave paintings.
McCully does a great job of moving this story of discovery along. Pictures really heighten the suspense, show the dark quality of the cave and the surprise of the art.
Fictional retelling of the discovery of cave paintings by boys searching for gold in 1940. McCully's art is perfect for this book. Great for budding explorers.
Julie Suzanne
The beautiful illustrations drew me into this book that tells a bit of history that somehow eluded me thus far. I learned something new!

This book was interesting to me because it was about some kids who found a valuable cave.
Some of the vocabulary was hard though.
Crystal Walker
Excellent story.. I wish someone would write a nonfiction or biography piece about the people and things involved in the story..
Hope L. Justice
This book was incredibly boring to read. There are a lot of dates and very little creativity in terms on language.
Beautiful illustrations and great storytelling. A little wordy for the 5-year-olds, but they were still fascinated.
Levi and I read this then drew own own "cave paintings" with charcoal. We are learning about prehistoric people.
Edward Sullivan
Informative and beautifully illustrated. An excellent introduction to the subject for younger readers.
Kate Hastings
Grades 2-5. Picture book about the cave art boys discovered in France.
A fictionalized account of the discovery of the Caves of Lascaux.
so few children's books about "prehistory". This one is a treasure.
Shannon Kitchen
Who is this book for? Not me!
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Emily Arnold McCully received the Caldecott Medal for Mirette on the High Wire. The illustrator of more than 40 books for young readers, she divides her time between Chatham, New York, and New York City.
More about Emily Arnold McCully...
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