Exploring the Secret World Beneath Your Feet
By Jane Price. Illustrated by James Gulliver Hancock
Kids Can. $18.95. Ages 8 to 12
This guide to everything underground goes wide through history and deep into the earth. Touching upon subjects ranging from dinosaur fossils and ancient Egyptian burial tombs to government bunkers and ultra-modern mines, Jane Price gives curious young readers a sense of realms hidden from most of us. She includes, for example, not just caves of many types but also the cave cities of Turkey, one of which once sheltered 30,000 people. Photographs convey the grandeur and amazing formations of certain caves, and James Gulliver Hancock’s cross-section illustration of a cave city shows how it was organized in a way no photograph could. The book’s visual highlights are the two-page cross-sections that Hancock has created to begin each chapter. Playing with scale, he manages in his opening spread to include the top four layers of Earth, mountains, a beach, an ocean, a volcano and a city threatened by that volcano’s deadly lava. In his somewhat fanciful vision of Tokyo, Godzilla is almost as tall as the Cocoon Tower but nowhere near as compelling as all the activities below ground (subterranean farming, anyone?). “Underworld” also discusses animals, like the naked mole rats, which live part- or full-time beneath the earth. But mostly the book is about how humans keep on digging into the earth. It ends with ongoing research by scientists searching for the secrets of the universe in the peace and quiet of abandoned mines while other scientists are theorizing about Earthlings living underground on Mars. Deep thoughts, indeed.