Many of us have been reading books about antiquity since our youngest days and if we were lucky enough to learn about ancient Egypt in elementary school, our fascination for ancient cultures blossomed at an early age. In this blog, the Nile Scribes have chosen our six favourite books which are perfectly suited to teach the youngest of readers about the world of ancient Egypt, and might even inspire some of them to be Egyptologists someday.
One Blue Hippo
by the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Nile Scribes: This book is the perfect first book for your little loved one’s first step into the ancient world. It features several artefacts from the collection of the Metropolitan Museum Art and uses them to teach counting to ten. From one famous blue hippo named William, to five leaping horses and eight sitting frogs, this book is a great introduction into the ancient Egyptian world with actual Egyptian objects. At the back of the book, each object is listed with its detailed description and catalogue information (for the adult readers!).
We’re Sailing Down the Nile: A Journey Through Egypt
by Laurie Krebs and Anne Wilson
NS: This book teaches children about ancient Egypt through a means that the ancient Egyptians themselves would get behind: by sailing down the Nile from Aswan to Cairo stopping at sites along the way. In simple rhymes, a group of children describe their visits to Abu Simbel, the Valley of the Kings, the Fayoum, the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, and Giza. On each page we learn about an ancient Egyptian deity and their animal form, and the back of the book contains several pages for older kids to read more in depth about history, mummies, and mythology. This approach makes the book appealing for both younger and older kids.
The Shipwrecked Sailor: an Egyptian Tale with Hieroglyphs
by Tamara Bower
NS: Based on the famous ancient Egyptian tale now known by the same name, this beautifully illustrated storybook tells the journey of a sailor who was on his way to Nubia with his crew. His ship encountered trouble, sank, and left him as the sole survivor. The sailor was washed ashore on a mythical island on the Red Sea coast, where he met a giant serpent who reassures him that he will eventually return home to his family. Author Tamara Bower has played an active role as an archaeological illustrator on expeditions in Egypt, Turkey, and Spain but is also well-known for her children’s books including The Mummy Makers of Egypt. This book is also a must-read for adults learning hieroglyphs, as Bower has included excerpts from the Egyptian text in her illustrations, complete with corresponding translations.
The Egyptian Cinderella
by Shirley Climo
NS: Based on a story recorded by the Roman writer, Strabo, who lived in the first century BC, Shirley Climo’s rendition describes the life of Rhodopis, a girl who was abducted from her home in Greece and sold into slavery in Egypt. There, her owner looked kindly on her and bestowed her with fancy slippers that would sparkle in a reddish gold. The modern audience is, of course, so familiar with the traditional lore, but in this adaption it is the god Horus who snatches her slipper and delivers it to Pharaoh Amasis. He immediately sets out on a quest throughout Egypt to find the foot to which the shoe belongs. While the decoration in the text is more reminiscent of ancient Greek imagery, the visual elements of ancient Egypt are all present. The book also includes a brief summary of the story’s origins – if only Disney had followed the original more closely!
Bill and Pete Go Down the Nile
by Tomie de Paola
NS: A story by Tomie dePaola (who is also creator of the well-known Strega Nona series) tells the story of Bill, a Nile crocodile, and his friend Pete, who are learning about Egypt in school. At home, Bill errantly tells his mother he learned about esophaguses [sarcophaguses] and the stinx [the Sphinx]. Bill and Pete go on a Nile field trip to the Royal Museum, where they apprehend a criminal attempting to steal the ‘Sacred Eye of Isis.’ While espousing the traditional depiction of ancient Egypt in school, the book excels in translating the passion and fascination we have for the land of the Pharaohs today.
by George Neeb
NS: Author George Neeb supplied us with a copy of his new book, Pharaoh’s Arrow, for review on the blog, and we’re glad he did! Using charming rhymes, the book tells the story of a young girl named Akia who embarks on a mission to the palace after misfortune befalls her father. Neeb’s bright illustrations in Egyptian 2-dimensional style and hieroglyphic vocabulary interspersed throughout are the greatest parts of this book. At the back, Neeb describes how he achieved his papyrus texture through paints so that readers can replicate his art style for their own story.
What are your favourite kids books for visiting ancient Egypt? Let us know in the comments.