Rocket Robinson’s father is an important U.S. diplomat and they have lived in many foreign countries, including their new home in Cairo. It is the 1930s, just a few years after Howard Carter discovered the tomb of King Tut, and Cairo is still caught up in mummy fever. Rocket is pretty bored with only his pet monkey, Screech, to keep him company. On his first outing in the city, he meets a young gypsy girl called Nuri and discovers that he likes her quite a bit. When their lunch is interrupted by two henchmen who try to kidnap them, he decides to take her into his confidence.
Rocket shows Nuri a note written in hieroglyphics, which he found on his train ride to Cairo when he bumped into a man named Otto von Sturm. He hasn’t had any luck deciphering it, so Nuri takes him to the local museum where they discover that the note isn’t in hieroglyphs at all: it’s a cipher. Non-stop action ensues as Rocket is snatched by Otto’s thugs. He discovers that the cipher leads to a map of the long-lost treasure of Pharaoh Khufu, which is supposedly buried under the Great Pyramid. With the help of Nuri and Screech, Rocket figures out where the treasure is hidden, but Otto and his men aren’t far behind!
Rocket Robinson is a pretty awesome character who will remind readers of a young Indiana Jones. His name alone calls to mind the boy adventurers of old series books, such as Don Sturdy, Biff Brewster, and Tom Quest. Given its 1930s setting, this volume is very reminiscent of these series, but it is nice to see a mixed gender team—Rocket readily admits to Nuri that he couldn’t have saved the treasure from the treasure hunters without her help. There are numerous action sequences that propel the plot along. For example, when Rocket is locked in a room in Otto’s mansion and overhears the villain’s plans, he escapes by balancing precariously on the ledge outside his window. Rocket then makes a daring leap and lands on a clothesline that proceeds to snap in half, swinging him Tarzan-style through the busy marketplace—only to land him in the back of a horse cart, where a startled horse gallops him away to safety! In yet another scene, Rocket and Nuri enter the pyramid through an underground catacomb entrance and encounter classic archeological perils, including a moving floor, crocodiles, a pit that fills with quicksand, and a slick slide downhill toward some sharp spikes.
The book is large for a single-story graphic novel, so it is split into ten chapters and includes a handy map for reference. Fortunately, the book’s action keeps it from lagging due to its length. There is also a great deal of historically accurate information to engage readers that are interested in learning more about Egypt and the pyramids. Howard Carter, King Tut, hieroglyphics, pyramid engineering, the Rosetta Stone, and other related topics are woven into the narrative.
While there are some clichés in the style of Indiana Jones, the book is fun, full of action, and educational without being obvious. The story is suitable for children, tweens, and teens, though some younger readers might be discouraged by the length of the book or get bored with the story. This graphic novel’s only weakness can be found in its artistic style: the people aren’t glamorous-looking, and the art can make the book look too young for tweens and teens who are used to wide-eyed manga characters or sexy superheroes. However, I would recommend this to any reader who enjoys adventure stories; those that are already familiar with films like Indiana Jones and National Treasure could really enjoy this simple adventure.
Rocket Robinson and the Pharaoh’s Fortune
by Sean O’Neill
BoilerRoom Studios, 2013
Publisher Age Rating: 9–12