Summer of Discovery
Two teenagers living in the dustbowl that is Nebraska in 1939 meet a professional archaeologist, who takes them on as his assistants for the summer. Through the next few months, the boys help excavate site after site, discovering much of the rich history of the Great Plains in the process. From the Ice Age to modern times, they learn lessons encompassing such diverse subjects as the tragedy of the Native Americans to the poor farming techniques of the white men that helped bring on the terrible conditions of the dustbowl. In the end, they are confirmed in their ambition of becoming archaeologists themselves.
The book’s purpose is primarily instructive. The author gives her readers an insider’s look into the techniques of archaeology as practiced in 1939. She also skillfully blends the myths and legends of the past with the real history of the Great Plains. Indeed, the book’s strength lies in its sense of time and place. Her characters’ skills in interpreting clues found in the earth shed light on the past and help readers gain a better understanding of the present. However, the story could benefit from faster pacing and a more page-turning approach to plot. The author’s characters could have been drawn more sharply, allowing the work to appeal to a much wider audience. Still the book stands as an excellent introduction to the practice of archaeology, suitable for a young person who is exploring possible careers.