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Nonfiction Monday: The Secret Cave by Emily Arnold McCully

The Secret Cave: Discovering Lascaux
By Emily Arnold McCully
Farrar Straus Giroux
ISBN: 9780374366940
Grades 2-4
In Stores

There is a little-known room in the famous cave of Lascaux. Never shown to the public, the secret chamber featured a painting so odd, the French government would never release photos. Until now:

How these ancient peoples knew that something called a “picture book” would one day be created, and that their paintings deserved to be the subject of one is still unexplained, but oh-so-true. The Secret Cave has arrived in a world where there aren’t many sources of Lascaux info appropriate for the elementary school crowd. This amazing story of discovery is now accessible to the picture book set.

Some of the most important cave paintings in the world were found by kids. On a treasure hunt in the south of France in 1940, a quartet of youngsters crawled deep into an uncharted cave and found what were among the first recorded works of art. So perfectly preserved were the paintings, the young explorers first doubted the validity of their find. They decided to tell their teacher, who (after some convincing) agreed to go into the cave to see the paintings for himself. Their authenticity was impossible to deny, catapulting the boys and their cave to world renown. Back matter includes an insightful author’s note on what came of Lascaux in the years after the discovery.

The sketchy ink and watercolor illustrations do well in capturing the atmosphere of discovery. McCully does justice to the cave paintings as well, recreating them with commendable accuracy.

Lascaux books are few and far between. This will make a nice addition. The Secret Cave is well done and worth having around.

Review copy from publisher.

Click here to check out the Nonfiction Monday roundup at Madigan Reads.

Find this book at your local library with WorldCat.

Cave painting created with Muro.

About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.


  1. Ooh, thanks for the review! I just put this one on my last order, so I’ll look for it when it comes in!

  2. Thanks for participating in NonFiction Monday!

    McCully’s art is so fabulous, isn’t it? I had a kid come in asking for books on cave painting for a school project and all I could offer them were a few DVD’s (meant for older audiences). This should fill a collection gap quite nicely.

  3. This sounds like a wonderful book for my 7-year-old. Thanks for the review!


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