Hi all-

I came across this across the following article online today. It mentions that MS is working on another Zac and Pook book - doesn't say whether there is a treasure hunt involved though!


Posted on Wed, Apr. 13, 2005

Hiding in plain sight

Author sends 'Treasure's Trove' readers on treasure hunt


Pioneer Press

Few children's books are being more closely scrutinized these days than "A Treasure's Trove," by a New York self-made millionaire named Michael Stadther.

Embedded in the fairy tale are clues leading to 12 gold tokens hidden on public property across the country. Each token can be redeemed for a bejeweled insect based on one of the characters.

Sound like the St. Paul Winter Carnival? Not quite. Together, the critters are worth $1 million.

Since publication in December, more than 600,000 copies of the books and related products have been snapped up by would-be treasure hunters. As part of a national tour, Stadther and the jewels will be in the Twin Cities Saturday and Sunday at the Science Museum of Minnesota.

During a phone interview, Stadther declined to give hints, other than to say "anyone who can read" can solve the puzzles and at least one token is hidden within a day's drive of anywhere in the continental United States. He was more forthcoming about where they're not hidden.

"They're not buried, they're not on private property," he said. "You don't have to open, pry or lift anything to get at them. They're not under water, not in caves or on mountain tops, not in remote locations and not in dangerous places."

Does he think St. Paul residents will have an edge due to our long history of hunting for medallions?

"Ummm. Noooo," he said in a bemused tone.

Guess he has never heard of the Pioneer Press Treasure Hunt. As far as he knows, no tokens have been found.

The story itself features a young man named Zac and his companion, Pook, half moth and half dog. The duo find themselves up against an evil enchanter who has kidnapped Zac's wife and is sprinkling a mysterious black dust at night that turns living creatures into jewels.

Stadther nurtured the idea for a real-life treasure hunt for more than 20 years, ever since reading "Masquerade," by Kit Williams, which included clues leading to a treasure buried in England.

He put the idea on hold while he made a fortune designing software for bank companies. Six years ago, he sold his last company for $100 million and set to work full time on his book.

Don't be confused for a second. Stadther is not dabbling in watercolors. He brought the same drive to the book project that made him a millionaire, rising before dawn and often working at his home in Westchester County, N.Y., until dinner, he said. After a dozen publishers turned down the book, he published it himself.

"Publishers have too many manuscripts coming at them, and they don't have more than 10 to 15 seconds to listen to an idea," he said. "And this idea takes 10 minutes to explain, even talking as fast as I can."

After recouping his $3 million investment, Stadther plans to donate any profits to environmental causes.

The insects themselves are based on Stadther's drawings and are intricately set with diamonds, sapphires, pearls, amethysts and other gems. They range in value from the ladybug, appraised at $8,500, to the spider, appraised at $450,000.

He bought his first bug on a business trip to London just as he was starting to work on the story. The 19th-century brooch is shaped like a grasshopper, set with green garnets, diamonds and a ruby eye.

"I thought, well, gee, I could easily collect 12 beautiful lady's brooches," he said. "So, I went off and wrote about a spider and a beetle and an ant and a caterpillar."

But it turns out bugs aren't that popular with the ladies. Though he was able to find a snail and a ladybug, he ended up commissioning the rest of the pieces from jeweler Robert Underhill of Danbury, Conn.

The treasure hunt officially ends Dec. 31, 2007, at which point Stadther will keep any unclaimed insects. He is already at work on his next Zac and Pook story and has assembled a team, including his wife, to produce a series of spin-off family puzzle books.

Stadther always has liked cerebral games and art, he said. He was raised by a working-class single mother who moved around the country. While attending a residential school for gifted students, he came to the attention of a benefactor who paid his tuition at Tulane University, where he studied fine arts and math.

Why didn't he pursue his interest in art?

"Because you don't make any money in fine arts," he said, as if it should be obvious. "Now, I'm back to what I've always wanted to do."


What: Michael Stadther, author of the book "A Treasure's Trove," will speak and sign books

When: 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday

Where: Science Museum of Minnesota, 120 W. Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul

More: See the jeweled insects based on his drawings from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the museum. Learn more about the nationwide treasure hunt for $1 million in jewels at www.atreasurestrove.com.

Maja Beckstrom can be reached at mbeckstrom@pioneerpress.com or 651-228-5295.