Buried treasure, secret caves, -the perfect set up for an adventure during school holidays. In this fictionalized retelling of the discovery of the Caves of Lascaux, Jaques, JoJo, and Simon are playing war games against the backdrop of World War II when an older boy, Marcel, tells them of a very deep hole his dog had fallen into the day before. Marcel thinks it’s the entrance to a secret tunnel with treasure buried by one of the nobles in the region. Who could resist a search for buried treasure? Abandoning their games, they follow Marcel to where he thinks the tunnel begins.
The entrance to the secret tunnel if big enough for a dog, but not for a person. The boys take turns widening the hole until they can fit one by one. Dropping down, they land in an entrance to a small tunnel and with the help of a few lanterns, start crawling along. They’re sure this must be the entrance to the count’s tunnel, but when they get to the end they find not gold, but a large cave filled with wall paintings of animals that don’t live in the region any more. After they climb out, they promise to keep the caves secret, but before too long all of the village children have found out about their discovery and they all want a chance to see it. After some debate, the boys finally decide to tell their teacher about the discovery, but initially he doesn’t believe them and thinks they’re trying to play a trick on him. When he sees the caves he cannot believe his eyes and tells the boys that France’s greatest expert on prehistoric art, the Abbot Henri Breuil, has fled occupied Paris and is staying nearby. Abbot Breuil charges the boys with protection of the treasure and even in the midst of World War II, the discovery was reported in newspapers all over the world.
Based on anecdotal accounts, The Secret Cave: Discovering Lascaux by Emily Arnold McCully captures your imagination and sense of adventure and makes history come to life. What child hasn’t imagine making some sort of fabulous discovery? The Caves of Lascaux are located in the Dordogne region in Southwestern France in the town of Montingac. Unfortunately, the actual caves have been closed to visitors in order to preserve them, but they have been recreated nearby in Lascaux II which you can go and see. If you would like to see actual prehistoric paintings, try the Grotte Roffignac which is only 40 minutes or so west of Lascaux. Grotte Rouffignac is open to the public between Apri 1st and November 1, though the number of visitors is limited to 550 per day.