How to Find Gold

posted in: Viviane Schwarz | 4

howtofindgoldI wanted a brilliant book to start the new year with and I’ve unearthed real treasure with How to Find Gold by Viviane Schwarz (@vivschwarz), out later this week in the UK.

Anna is a girl with an inspirational can-do attitude. She decides she wants to find gold with her friend (a crocodile) and refuses to be put off or to give up, simply because the task might be risky or hard to achieve.

Issues which might seem like problems to some are acknowledged by young Anna, but they never put her off her stride. Instead, her positive take on life, her ability to see opportunities rather than obstacles and the power of her imagination enable her and Crocodile to have tremendous fun looking for (and indeed finding) gold, even if (or partly because?) it is dangerous and difficult.

Together the friends search high and low, sailing the seven seas and facing terrible monsters before finding a chest full of treasure in a sunken wreck. But having found the treasure do they keep it? What is more valuable to them? Piles of gold to have and to hold or the wonderful experiences they’ve shared by together being brave, hopeful and believing in themselves?

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In some regards, this outstanding picture book echoes Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman and Caroline Binch, both conveying an inspiring message that anything is possible if you allow yourself to really go after your dreams. Both also happen to feature black girls, though in neither instance is this what the books are about. Their messages are much more universal – about having fun, about self-belief, about letting your imagination take flight to fruition.

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Schwarz’s tale is full of humour, both in her words and imagery. The looks of determination and delight on Anna’s face, the unassuming dead-pan delivery of her decisions, her friend’s (mostly) calm absorption of Anna’s apparent impetuosity – all will make you smile.

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Schwarz also uses colour brilliantly to intensify the adventure these two undertake. Monochrome real life is contrasted with a richly vibrant hunt for treasure.

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Courageous, joyous and imaginative, Anna is a hero to enliven us all. This funny manifesto for adventuring with friends, for embracing challenges, for not giving up on looking for gold, whatever form it takes for you is outstanding. I can’t think of a better way to start my reading year, or yours.

Of course we were chomping at the bit for our own treasure hunt having read How to Find Gold but first we had to ensure there were plenty of gold coins to find in amongst the hoard of jewels.

We took inspiration from our box of coins from around the world, choosing those with designs on them which we especially liked.

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We then placed these coins under gold confectionery wrappers (thin golden tin foil) in order to transfer their designs to the foil.

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We also designed our own coins, using golden embossing paper and kebab sticks.

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Next up we melted lots of chocolate and dropped dollops onto the foil (flipped over, so the gold side was face down).

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An hour or two in the fridge later and we had our first glimpse at how our hoard of golden dubloons was coming along…

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All that was left was to wrap the edges of the foil around the hardened chocolate to complete our chocolate coins and amass our amazing pile of gold:

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Making our own treasure was definitely as much fun as finding it!

Whilst making money we listened to:

  • Treasure Chest by The Dreamtree Shakers
  • Don’t bring me gold by Funky Mama
  • And a favourite of mine – Treasures by Seasick Steve


  • Other activities which might work well alongside reading How to Find Gold include:

  • Creating your own treasure maps. CBeebies has a video tutorial that’s a good starting point if you’ve never used an old teabag before, and for some starter ideas about what to put on your map, this collection of treasure maps on Pinterest might spark your imagination.
  • Making chests to store your treasure in. Free Kids Crafts shows you how to turn an old shoe box into a pirate’s treasure chest, but there are lots more ideas (including edible ones!) on this pinterest board.
  • Bringing your own crocodile friend to life. Krokotak shows you how to make very handsome paper alligator, which I think it is perfectly all right to reconsider as a crocodile 🙂
  • Being brave enough to try doing something difficult or risky. This is a tricky one of course. But the kids and I have talked about what we could try that is a bit tricky, a bit dangerous but which might be quite an adventure and we’ve agreed that this weekend we’re going to try jumping off the high diving boards at the swimming pool for the first time!


  • If you liked this post you might like these other posts by me:

  • The Story of Money written by Martin Jenkins, illustrated by Satoshi Kitamura plus how we used coins to learn some geography
  • Sam & Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen plus how we dug for treasure in our own back garden
  • The Pirates Next Door by Jonny Duddle plus how I created a treasure hunt for my kids which helped them learn to read a map of our local neighbourhood
  • moretreasurehuntideas

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    Disclosure: I was sent a free review copy of this book by the publisher.

    4 Responses

    1. What a stunning looking book! Thank you for pointing it out, and Happy New Year!

      • Thanks Pippa, this is a gem of a book. And the excuse to make chocolate money was very welcome!

    2. I have never thought about making my own chocolate coins – what a great idea!

      This looks like a great book to kick off this year’s book recommendations. I love the illustration of the treasure ship 🙂
      Catherine recently posted..The most viewed blogposts on Story Snug in 2015

      • Thanks Catherine. Anna (the girl in Viv’s book) has all the verve, open eyed wonder and panache I hope I help foster in my own kids. Anna and her crocodile are just fabulous!

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