Review: The Greatest Treasure Hunt in History
The Greatest Treasure Hunt in History:
The Story of the Monuments Men
by Robert M. Edsel
Category: Middle Grade
Reviewer: Stacy Nockowitz
Edsel tells the story of eleven indefatigable heroes who risked (and sometimes lost) their lives on a quest to recover Europe’s greatest artistic and cultural treasures stolen by the Nazis during World War II. The Monuments Men – a misnomer, as some of them were women – were carefully selected to act as art detectives across Europe, identifying, locating, recovering, and safeguarding tens of thousands of paintings, sculptures, pieces of furniture, monuments, and other works both large and small. Edsel’s book has all the elements of a great adventure story baked in from page one: a race against time across war-torn lands, brave heroes and vile villains, high stakes, and nail-biting tension. Any reader who devotes the considerable time required to dig into The Greatest Treasure Hunt in History will be rewarded with a narrative almost too incredible to be true.
The Greatest Treasure Hunt in History is the young reader’s version of Robert M. Edsel’s bestselling book, The Monuments Men. However, the transition to a youth version is not entirely successful. The text is extremely dense and will require much patience from young readers. There is a lot of time spent on the personal histories and journeys of the Monuments Men, which may appeal less to kids than the treasure hunting aspects of the story.
The Nazis looted the homes of Jews across Europe, and a considerable amount of time in the book is devoted to the recovery of these precious objects, but Jews are not the focus of the story, other than to point out that a number of the Monuments Men were, in fact, Jewish. This book is not a Holocaust book, nor does it pretend to be. But there is an element of tikkun olam in The Greatest Treasure Hunt in History as the Monuments Men attempt to right the terrible wrongs of the Nazis for the sake of preserving Europe’s and the world’s history. Whether that is enough for it to be considered for a Sydney Taylor Honor, I leave to the committee.
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