In my recent trip to the Tampa Bay area, I stopped in at Haslam's Bookstore over in St. Petersburg. While they carry a number of old children's books, I rarely find any that I need or want. This time around, however, I stumbled across this little treasure (pun fully intended) in dust jacket and since it was on sale, I figured what the heck. I mean, with a title like Finding the Lost Treasure, it sounded like a decent enough mystery, and the cover with the man and woman running up to the man lying on the ground, there was enough to interest me. (And just to give you the heads up - the photo in this post is actually from my book - I could not find an image of this cover anywhere on the internet, which was quite surprising!)
So I bought it.
I'm not sure who Helen M. Persons is, or whether she wrote any other children's books ... and yes, I realize this was published back in 1933, so it was written during a completely different time period when people acted and thought differently ... but to be honest, as I read this story, I got the very real sensation of reading a V.C. Andrews novel (and anyone who has read any of Andrews' books will know where I'm going with this).
While there are some similarities to the Bobbsey Twins (the two older siblings taking care over the two younger siblings), oddly enough, there are stronger similarities to Flowers in the Attic. Left to their own devices, these four children create a unique family, with John as the "father," Desire as the "mother," and Priscilla and Rene as the "children." What's worse is that the author portrays Jack and Desire as having a very close relationship - too close, for my taste.
p. 11 - "Now Dissy," said the boy, laying his hand affectionately over hers, "let's have the inspiration."
p. 38 - "You're a good little soul," answered Jack, with an affectionate good night kiss. "I don't know what I'd do without you."
pp. 79-80 - Desire nodded, burying her face on her brother's shoulder ... "I hardly think so dear," replied Jack, stroking her curls.
And so it goes, chapter after chapter, Jack and Desire acting more like husband and wife than brother and sister, referring to each other incessantly as "dear" and "darling." In fact, on page 70, one of their customers mistakes Desire for Jack's wife; and, quite frankly, if she were reading the same book as I did, I can see why she would think that!
Now, as far as the mystery of that strange code goes - well, it's basically nothing more than bookends for this book. It is mentioned at the beginning, giving the reader hope that it will be a central part of the story ... then it gets mentioned at the end, when suddenly, and with no warning, Desire comes across a metal box buried beneath the small house where they are staying - a box that, quite conveniently, is buried west of the house, back in the year 1755 - 6954 is the number of the deed, 15 is the depth of the hole, and 12 is the distance from the edge of the lot where they are living - and thus, the house where they are staying is found to legally belong to them, and they now have a permanent home. All's well that ends well. Except - there is absolutely nothing throughout the entire book that leads up to this sudden realization and discovery, making it, quite possibly, one of the most unrelated, sudden discoveries to wrap up a mystery ever!
It's hard to say whether I would recommend this book or not. It does have its moments, as there are times when the adventures of the Wistmore children resemble those of the Ingalls clan in the Little House books; but then, there are those cringing moments when Jack and Desire seem a LOT closer to one another than a brother and sister should be. There is certainly a great idea for a mystery, but there is no execution in it, and its resolution comes so far out of left field as to leave the reader wondering why it was even there, except to give a convenient windfall at the end of the story so that the children could all get everything they wanted without having to work for it.
Stumbling Across the Lost Treasure - That We Didn't Even Know Was Lost would probably have been a more apt title for this book.
RATING: 4 wagon wheels out of 10 for leading me to believe this was going to be a great treasure hunting mystery, but providing me with a Little House in the Attic tale instead.