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Secrets Underground: North America's Buried Past Hardcover – February 6, 2014

9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 4–8—What mysteries are buried under our modern cities? How were those underground places used? This book attempts to look at North America's buried secrets from a historic point of view. Beginning with Mexico City's foundation on the Aztec city of Tenochtitá and moving chronologically across the rest of North America to include buried ships in San Francisco from the Gold Rush; a West Virginia cave used by Confederate soldiers during the Civil War; Prohibition-era underground tunnels of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan; New York City's buried machinery during World War II; and a giant bunker in West Virginia used during the Cold War. Chapters open with a short narrative meant to hook readers and then give a description of the underground structure and its historical significance. However, students may lose interest, as the historical background is a trifle circuitous and takes precedent, leaving little room for exploration of the subterranean areas. There are surprisingly few actual photos of the caves and tunnels, and what the book does have are small sized. The sidebars are filled with ancillary information that doesn't always enhance or complement the text. Readers who are drawn to historical mysteries may be disappointed.—Patricia Feriano, Our Lady of Mercy School, Potomac, MD


MacLeod has produced yet another immensely readable, engaging piece of middle-grade nonfiction with wide appeal. (Jaclyn McLean Resource Links 2014-04-00)

The stories in this book are well researched and thought-provoking, providing an illuminating glimpse into the dark history buried under our daylight world. (Charis Cotter Readerly, National Reading Campaign 2014-01-30)

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 - 18 years
  • Grade Level: 5 - 12
  • Hardcover: 88 pages
  • Publisher: Annick Press (February 6, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1554516315
  • ISBN-13: 978-1554516315
  • Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 0.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,073,734 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Pop Bop TOP 500 REVIEWER on February 8, 2014
Format: Hardcover
This book was a happy find, and it did a nice job of overcoming the two weaknesses you see a lot in non-fiction for younger readers. First, it actually describes a varied and interesting range of "underground secrets", complemented by numerous sidebars that add references to and descriptions of many more sites related to the main ones. So, it truly delivers on its promise. Second, it seemed to me, (and I claim no real expertise here), that it was written in a style and at a depth that stayed consistently at the target audience's reading and interest level.

I've now read a number of early middle grade non-fiction books that sound like they will be interesting - introductions to astronomy, surveys of forensic science, anatomy books. These books can sometimes be disappointing because they either just peter out or they veer off into topics of little interest or they get tied up in points of only technical interest. Well, this book seems to be composed of underground secrets that are actually fun to read about. You get the ancient Aztec capital under Mexico City, the abandoned sailing ships that San Francisco's waterfront is built on, caves, tunnels, old nuclear survival bunkers, the famous prohibition era tunnels of Moose Jaw, and dozens of sidebars about more underground cities, more tunnels, abandoned underground railways, and so on. This is a fairly short book, and there are a zillion other cool places you could add to it, but for what it is it seems like a book that could entertain, inform and fire the imagination.

As to style, many books are all over the place. In spots the books are dumbed down with "goofy" jokes, and fart humor, and "...for dummies" humor that reminds a kid reader that, apparently, he's just a kid. This book doesn't do that.
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Format: Paperback
As usual, I paid nothing for this book but instead received a copy for review from NetGalley. Despite that kind consideration I give my candid thoughts below.

"Secrets Underground" is a very accessible yet detailed story of six different locations on the continent that have something buried underground. In some cases it's actual open passages or rooms and in others it's just remnants of some bygone era. The average section is about 15 pages long and features 12 photographs from half a page in size to thumbnails so this is about 70% text and 30% color photos. It's primarily textual and probably appropriate for 10-12 year-olds.

On the positive side, the author has chosen some very intriguing locales and it makes me want to travel more just reading a bit about them. Also, as I said the text is detailed enough to keep a young reader's interest but very careful to define words that kids probably wouldn't know.

To the negative, many of the photos are rather small and some pages are decorated with abominable clip art of digging implements. The graphical layout seems rather unprofessional and at times distracting.

In summary, the book lives up to its name and offers widely varied information on those mysterious bits lurking underground. It could use a bit more polish but it's sufficient to keep kids interest.
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By mychellem on February 12, 2014
Format: Hardcover
I've taken the tour of Seattle's underground city a couple of times, once as a child and then again with my husband and kids. The whole idea fascinates me. More recently, I heard about the tours of the Shanghai tunnels in Portland -- and that there are tunnels under Salem. It's starting to seem like there are tunnels everywhere.

Secrets Underground: North America's Buried Past by Elizabeth MacLeod gives you a chance to explore a few of them. The chapters tell the stories of abandoned ships buried beneath San Francisco, a formerly top secret government bunker built under a bustling resort, and immigrants who were forced underground by taxes they couldn't afford to pay.

I didn't realize that this was a children's book when I accepted it for review. Honestly, I learned just as much from reading it as I do from a lot of adult nonfiction. I think my boys would love it, but I'd caution parents that it covers some aspects of history that aren't exactly pleasant to think about. I know history (not to mention the nightly news) are full of awful things, but I'm not always expecting them in a book meant for kids. You might want to read this before handing it over to a young child, if only to prepare yourself for possible questions later.

Disclosure -- I received an electronic review copy from the publisher.
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By teach4173 on May 18, 2014
Format: Hardcover
I was intrigued by this book when I saw it because I've been a fan of the TV show Cities of the Underworld on the History Channel. If you are a fan of that series, you will definitely want to pick of this book.

The first chapter interested me the most as it was on a topic that I teach, the Aztecs. It explains the history of the Aztecs from how they chose the city of Tenochtitlan as their capital to their defeat by the Spanish. It then explains how the city got buried and how it was uncovered. It concludes with what is happening now with the discovery.

The rest of the book is similar covering ships buried in San Francisco during the Gold Rush, a forgotten cave used during the Civil War in West Virginia, underground tunnels used during the Prohibition in Canada, Grand Central Terminal's underground tunnels in New York City, and the bunker under the Greenbrier hotel in West Virginia.

There are also facts that can be found in the margins of the books that give information about other places with similar "hidden treasures."

This is definitely a book to have if you teach any aspect of US History. As a lover of history, I was throughly intrigued with every aspect of the book. As a teacher, I really think that my students will love learning these unusual facts about our country.
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