CullmanTimes.com - Cullman, Alabama

November 27, 2012

For archaeologist Jordan Jacobs, a groundbreaking first book

By Tracy Grant
The Washington Post

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When Jordan Jacobs was 5 years old, he went to the school librarian to ask for a book about mummies.

"You want a book about your mommy; what a sweet boy you are," she told him.

"No, I want a book about MUMMIES . . . you know, ancient Egypt," the frustrated boy explained.

Jacobs has been interested in mummies and books ever since. He grew up to be an archaeologist, digging up ancient tools and bones all over the world, and has just written his first book, "Samantha Sutton and the Labyrinth of Lies."

Jacobs, whose book chronicles the adventures of a girl who wants to be an archaeologist and her brilliant uncle, recently took some time away from studying really old stuff and writing brand new books to talk to KidsPost.

Q: When did you do your first archaeological dig?

A: "I went on my first excavation when I was 12. A lot of what archaeologists do is to make sure that things are studied before they are destroyed by construction. What we were finding was . . . tiny little flecks of stone [from] stone tools. We weren't finding the tools themselves but just the little extra bits. By the end of the day, I had a real appreciation for what archaeology really is. It's not always like Indiana Jones, but it's still an interesting puzzle. It's fun to be out there in the dirt and digging holes and being outside all day."

Q: So where are some of the most amazing places you've been to?

A: "I've been to 40-something countries. . . . If everyone was able to travel, the world would be a much better place because . . . travel really makes you see how similar people are wherever you go."

Here are some of his favorites:

— Chavin de Huantar: An archaeological dig in Peru where he climbed through some of the same tunnels that Samantha explores in his book. He called it "one of the most amazing places I've ever been."

— Istanbul: Turkey's largest city is "my favorite city because of how many cultures have been through there. . . . You can see Viking graffiti. There's a crazy clash of cultures."

— Guatemala: "There was this ancient temple I wanted to see in the jungles, so I hired this 11-year-old to take me to it in his boat."

Q: When did you decide to write a book for kids?

A: "I've always written short stories since I was really young, but the idea for this book really came out of going to Chavin when I was in college. As soon as I got there and saw all the crazy ancient mechanisms I knew that this was an adventure story that begged to be written. It was exactly what I would want to read as a kid."

Q: Why did you make your main character a girl?

A: "It might have been easier to write 'Sam Sutton and the Labyrinth of Lies,' but the story that came into my mind had to have a girl. I wanted to write a story about a girl and her uncle. I once saw a home movie of my wife (Lindsay Pollak) as a young girl; she was so serious and in control of the situation, and I think Samantha comes from my wife."

Q: Are you doing more archaeology or more writing these days?

A: "Definitely more archaeology, but I'm working on the next book. The title is 'Samantha Sutton and the Winter of the Warrior Queen,' but I'm keeping the setting a secret."