Review: The Treasure Hunters

Written by Lisa Thompson
Illustrated by Gemma Correll
Published by Scholastic

The Treasure Hunters is an absolute gem of a story:  both an exciting, action-packed adventure and a wonderful tale of navigating friendship.

Twelve-year-old Vincent has found making new friends in secondary school difficult.  He has learned how to become invisible to hide his discomfort and awkwardness at being on the periphery of school life.  He also feels that his Dad is trying to get him to be more like his perfect older brother, Ewan, who seems to be good at everything Vincent finds a struggle.  Vincent finds co-ordination and organisation more difficult due to having dyspraxia; however, he has become good at playing his favourite computer game:  Battle Doom, and it is in this world where he doesn’t feel like a failure.

When his school is offered a last-minute opportunity for four students to take part in the annual Wilderness Warrior Challenge, which involves three days of hiking, camping and outdoor survival, Vincent cannot imagine anything worse!  So when he is invited to take part, he immediately rejects the offer, but his parents are convinced that stepping out of his comfort zone will be good for him, and he finds himself taking part in the Challenge with three of his classmates.

Only Lena wants to be on the trip, but she has her own secret reason for taking part.  Just as the others are ready to give in and go home, she reveals her secret to them.  Her deceased Grandpa was convinced that pirate treasure is hidden in the nearby mountain and she is determined to prove that he is right by finding it.  Can they work together to discover the treasure?  Are they the only ones seeking the treasure, or is there a thief on their trail?

I was absolutely gripped by the treasure hunt that the children find themselves on:  a treasure hunt that has plenty of excitement and danger as they each use their strengths to benefit the team and, in so doing, learn more about themselves and each other. I loved that this all takes place within a hiking and camping trip which really reminded me of the Duke of Edinburgh Award.  I was prepared for the Silver Award, but was a last- minute addition when someone pulled out for a Gold Award practice in the Mourne Mountains in Northern Ireland so wasn’t prepared.  I still remember the blisters, so I have every sympathy with Vincent! 

Vincent, Lena, Josh and Scarlett feel incredibly real and believable, and finding out more about them as the story progresses really encourages empathy.  They need others to believe in them, to give them a chance to show what they can do – a chance to shine – and to believe in themselves – to be themselves.  And I think this is something that is achieved perfectly through warm-hearted, humorous and empathetic storytelling.  Navigating new friendships is not always easy, and I really liked that the relationships between these four were messy, genuine and at times fractious.  I think many children getting ready to move to secondary school, or starting this journey in a new school, will appreciate the honesty and authenticity of this portrayal of friendship.  This story opens up lots of opportunity for discussion of issues such as poverty, toxic friendships and parental expectations, and will allow children to see themselves in stories, and encourage empathy for others. 

A wonderfully warm-hearted, exciting adventure, perfect for readers of 9+. 

Thank you to Harriet Dunlea and Scholastic for an early copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

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