Written by Megan Stine
and H. William Stine
Published: 1994

“Don’t touch that!” barked a voice that echoed through the whole museum gallery.

Young Indiana Jones froze. A huge hand clamped down hard on his shoulder, starting him. Indy jumped so much, he nearly dropped the precious golden bowl he was holding.

“Put it back, mate!” ordered the tall, burly museum guard, who was still gripping Indy’s shoulder.

As you can tell from the opening, Indiana Jones is getting into trouble even while he’s in a museum! When I found two copies of installments from the Young Indiana Jones Books series at my local library sale, I had no idea there was a television show that went along with these books. Some were novelizations of episodes while others, like the two I got (Journey to the Underworld and The Pirate’s Loot), were original stories set in the same time with the same character. I loved the Indiana Jones movies as a kid and still do as an adult (not you, Temple of Doom or Crystal Skull), so I was immediately intrigued by a series that dealt with Indy’s hijinks as a kid.

They do not disappoint. Journey to the Underworld is very fast-paced, just as one would expect from a TV episode or a juvenile adventure book. Which means it runs a little too quick and pat for my adult tastes, but is still vastly entertaining. Fourteen-year-old Indy and his father Dr. Jones go to Athens to look for the original Pietroasa bowl after the copy is accidentally destroyed. The original was stolen by a notorious thief Kourou who lives in Greece… but no one has ever seen his face. Indy is determined to find this thief and return the bowl. He teams up with a crippled cop who has been searching for Kourou for years, and the cop’s daughter Elyse. Indy’s journey has some uncanny parallels to the journey of Orpheus, whose story is chronicled on the Pietroasa bowl, which are sometimes a little too convenient… but still very entertaining.

The Young Indiana Jones Books aren’t deep, but they are a lot of fun, and you do learn something from them. I was already very familiar with Greek mythology when I read this, so I didn’t learn anything now about the Orpheus legend. But according to the notes at the end of the book, the Pietroasa bowl was a real artifact (until the Russian Communists seized it and melted it down for the gold in 1917) and there’s also a list of nonfiction books with more information about mythology, Greece, and octopuses for further reading, which is cool. I still haven’t seen more than an episode or two of the TV show, and only managed to read one more of the books in the series, but I retain a great deal of affection for them regardless.