Discouraged by the cocktail of princesses, bad attitudes, and vampires dominating today’s preteen culture, UCSB alumna Jennifer Amiel is doing her part to give young girls a new type of heroine to relate to in her book Chloe Diggins and the Eternal Emperor.
The daughter of a famous archaeologist, 12-year-old Chloe Diggins accompanies her father and a group of high school students on an archaeological dig in Peru. Just as their search begins to bear some interesting results, Don Diggins is mistakenly taken into custody by the police. It is up to Chloe and her new friend (and crush) Tom to unravel the ancient Incan mystery in order to save her father.
This Nancy Drew-meets-Boxcar Children–style adventure is equal parts entertaining and educational as Amiel weaves tidbits of Peruvian culture and Incan history into the action of the mystery. Even the dig sites are fairly realistic and glamorized, a facet important to the author as the story originates from Amiel’s professional and personal interest in archaeology.
Currently the director of education at the Museum on Main Street in Pleasanton, California, Amiel first developed an interest in archaeology when she arrived at UCSB to pursue a degree in biochemistry. During her first year, she happened to take an introductory course in anthropology taught by acclaimed archaeology author and professor Brian Fagan. Before long, Amiel’s focus shifted from the biological sciences to anthropology with an emphasis in archaeology. The Santa Barbara coast and Chumash Indian sites provided Amiel her an education in the tedious, yet rewarding, field before spending time on sites in the Middle East. Professor Katharina Schreiber was also influential in Amiel’s education, her work in Peru being a source of inspiration in the making of Chloe Diggins.
As an educator and a mother, Amiel’s intention with Chloe Diggins is not only to provide some historical context for the 9- to 12-year-old set but also to introduce a new type of role model for young adults. “A lot of what is out there for young girls revolves around princesses and vampires,” said Amiel. “I wanted to create a character who finds adventures, is curious and smart, who is respectful to her parents, but is still a relatable 12-year-old girl.” Her hope in writing a middle-grade book is to stimulate imagination and creativity in young readers.
Since its release in July, Chloe Diggins has been well received by parents and children in equal measure. A parent’s review of the book on Goodreads.com says, “What a perfect mix of mystery, suspense, humor, and heartfelt moments. Not only perfect for the pre-teen set but very entertaining for the ‘post-teen’ set as well.” Quick fans of the book have already envisioned Chloe as the heroine of a series, and luckily for them, Amiel agrees. With a second book currently in progress, Amiel assures plenty more stamps in the young adventurer’s passport — next up, Ireland.