Sixth grader Molly Cooke and her twelve-year-old brother Addison—who enjoys inadvisable adventures and has a “stunning capacity for getting himself into trouble” (60)—attend Theodore Roosevelt Middle School in the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Because they are Cookes born into a long line of archeologists, they have grown up on archaeology digs and in museums. Consequently, Addison Cooke and the Treasure of the Incas by Jonathan W. Stokes is rich with geography lessons, historical allusions, and opportunities to learn about cultural artifacts.
When the tweens’ Aunt Delia and Uncle Nigel get kidnapped by treasure hunters and thieves, Addison calls a Code Blue—a mission of the highest urgency—gathering his friends Eddie and Raj. With Eddie’s Spanish-speaking ability, Raj’s survival skills and street smarts, Molly’s soccer talent, and Addison’s vast book knowledge and smooth-talking, the team of 86ers sets out on an adventure to rescue the adults and to save the Incan treasure from looters.
With frequent consultations of Fiddleton’s Atlas, Addison leads the rescue mission to Ecuador and Colombia, across the Amazon, and on to Machu Picchu as readers learn about the Spanish Inquisition, the Incan treasure, and the Quechua Indians of the central Andes—direct descendants of the Incas. With passages from Stokes’ book, readers notice that Quechua influences are still in evidence, not just in Peru, but across the central Andes: “Salted fish and skinned venison hung from shop rafters. Barefoot children rolled spices onto smoked mutton, agouties, and pacas. Barking vendors shilled bananas, oranges, and mangos. Wrinkled Quechaun women hunched over cooking fires, smoke-curing beef and drinking white rum” (127).
When the team reaches Olvidados, they meet Guadalupe, a proclaimed orphan from Cleveland with a penchant for stealing. She agrees to guide the team, performing some daring feats and defections as they encounter bats, knife-wielding vagabonds, ossuaries, policía chases, caiman-infested waters, various Incan booby traps, and rival gangs. Along the way, Guadalupe adds her own version of wisdom: “Algunos cortes son demasiado profundas para sanar. Some cuts are too deep to heal” (163).
Besides some corny puns—my favorite occurs after the crime lord’s daughter is soaked in corn chowder: “Hell hath no fury like a woman corned” (222)—Stokes peppers his character’s speech with idioms and cuss words that add irony and humor as well as history. For example, to avoid getting into trouble, when he is especially frustrated or facing a particularly “sticky wicket,” Addison utters the names of traitors like John Wilkes Booth, Benedict Arnold, and Guy Fawkes. Stokes’ novel shares additional lessons about regret, loyalty, teamwork, Atahualpa’s curse, and the importance of a good attitude. Young readers who crave adventure, humor, and action will likely enjoy this series.
- Posted by Donna