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November 29, 2012 12:10 am


Author Jordan Jacobs, seen traveling through the Sahara Desert, is also an archaeologist. we1129GIDWITZ.jpg

Author Adam Gidwitz explores his dark side.



The folks at Jabberwocky are inviting families to venture to distant and fantastic realms--in the comfort of their cozy shop--as two noted and popular authors for middle-grade readers come to town for book signings.

This Saturday, Jordan Jacobs, author of "Samantha Sutton and the Labyrinth of Lies," will discuss the genesis of his book about the adventures of a daring 12-year-old girl who joins her uncle in an archaeological exploration of an ancient temple high in the Andes Mountains of Peru.

Jacobs, an archaeologist by profession, works at the University of California--Berkeley and has worked for the Smithsonian, UNESCO and the American Museum of Natural History in New York. But the author's excitement about the science goes back to his early childhood, when at the age of 6, he sought out books on mummies from the library.

In his book, the first of a series, Jacobs weaves a tale of mystery and adventure about spunky Samantha's expedition, which unfolds to involve the disappearance of newly discovered artifacts and the specter of the legendary haunting figure of El Loco.

Samantha plays a key role in an exploration to solve the mysteries, given that she alone is small enough to make her way through the miles of hidden narrow tunnels that wind below the temple.

As her quest reaches a climax, Samantha encounters the challenge of her lifetime and ends up saving both her uncle and her older brother.

While engaging in this story about a fascinating, exotic world, readers will be learning much about the science of archaeology as well. Jacobs' tale is based on his own expedition to the temple of Chavín de Huántar. The artifacts that he describes are ones that have been actually recovered from the site, and his descriptions of the steps involved in an archaeological dig are true to life.

With an enthusiasm that has been contagious among his young readers, Jacobs describes the beauty of his science.

"You almost get a feeling of time travel with archaeology," he said. "If you find something even as mundane as a piece of pottery, you can sometimes see the fingerprints of the person who made it. It's really an amazing feeling to hold something and know that you are the first person to hold it since hundreds and hundreds of years ago when a real person created it and used it."

Next Monday, young readers will, again, have an opportunity to travel--this time, to that land of Once Upon a Time as Adam Gidwitz, author of "A Tale Dark and Grimm" presents his newest work, "In a Glass Grimmly."

Gidwitz's tales intertwine some elements from the original writings of the Brothers Grimm and take them up a notch with just the right blend of humor and adventure.

"In a Glass Grimmly" follows the ventures of young Jack and Jill through a spectrum of fairy-tale scenarios, as they encounter the gruesome creatures and spine-tingling harrows that were key to the original stories those German brothers wrote more than 150 years ago--living up to their famous last name.

With tongue-in-cheek humor, Gidwitz highlights the gory and most frightening aspects of his tales, but with a clear goal in sight.

"I try to play up the really scary stuff to get the kids' attention, but--Shhh! Don't tell anyone--I'm really not trying to terrify anyone," he said. "I think the element of fear heightens the kids' excitement and opens their ears and minds so they can really engage in what I'm writing about."

What he's writing about are often unvoiced fears that many young people experience and, by portraying them as a thing or a character, Gidwitz helps his readers to identify and deal with those issues. And while his stories may include some gruesome episodes, they are peppered with humor and author's interjections that give the readers some breathing space from the action.

"I think that reading a scary book is like going into a spook house," he said. "You go in knowing that you're going to get scared but that you are going to come out OK in the end. I think kids often live sheltered lives, and they want to experience fear and they want to test themselves. It's like going on a roller coaster. They want to go to the edge as long as they know they can safely come back, having learned something."

Collette Caprara is a local writer and artist.

What: Book signings with Jordan Jacobs and Adam Gidwitz Where: Jabberwocky Book Store, 810 Caroline St., Fredericksburg When: Jordan Jacobs: Saturday, Dec. 1, noon-2 p.m. Adam Gidwitz: Monday, Dec. 3, 4-6 p.m. Cost: Free Info: 540/371-5684;

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