Books Early Readers Features Genre It's Monday What Are You Reading Lifespan of a Reader Memoirs, Biographies, and Constructed Narratives Nonfiction Picture Books Reading Themes

[Monday Reading] Biographies of Kings and Pharaohs in Ancient Egypt

"The Prince And The Sphinx" A Retelling By Cari Meister and Illustrated by Leonardo Meschini and "The Story Of Tutankhamun" by Patricia Cleveland-Peck and Illustrated by Isabel Greenberg.


It's Monday! What Are You Reading

Myra here.

It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers (new host of Monday reading: Kathryn T at Book Date). Since two of our friends, Linda from Teacher Dance and Tara from A Teaching Life have been joining this meme for quite awhile now, we thought of joining this warm and inviting community. 

These two picturebook biographies of kings and Pharaohs from Ancient Egypt are unexpected library finds. I confess not knowing much about this subject, except for the ones I learned by watching Brendan Fraser’s The Mummy. After reading these books, I could now deduce where the Hollywood storyline may have come from.

The Prince And The Sphinx

A Retelling By: Cari Meister Illustrated by: Leonardo Meschini
Published by: Picture Window Books (2012)
ISBN: 1404871497 (ISBN13: 9781404871496). Book was borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

This book, I believe, is meant to engage young, reluctant readers who are beginning to learn the joys of reading, but are welcoming longer texts and more exciting storylines. This is evident in the Glossary of Terms found at the beginning of the story and a list of the ‘cast of characters’ to familiarize the reader with the foreign names.

The story is a retelling of the life of Prince Thutmose IV, who was shunned by his brothers primarily because he was his father’s favourite, hence was most likely to be crowned King. Yet, he was depicted to remain kind and was described as prayerful to Egypt’s gods at the time.

During one of his early-morning hunts in his chariot, Thutmose saw the awe-inspiring pyramids and was drawn to them. It was during this time that he had an epiphany about the Sphinx, as Harmachis, “god of the rising sun, and the father of all pharaohs” proceeded to pronounce his edict about Thutmose’s impending leadership and what he needs to do to make this happen and to continue receiving the blessings of the gods.

It is clearly reminiscent of the time when leaders needed the deities’ blessings and protection, in order for them to earn the respect and obedience of their countrymen. This book seems to be part of a series called The Egyptian Myths Series which teachers and librarians may want to check out.

The Story Of Tutankhamun

Written by: Patricia Cleveland-Peck Illustrated by: Isabel Greenberg
Published by: Bloomsbury Children’s (2017)
ISBN: 1408876787 (ISBN13: 9781408876787). Book was borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

I have fallen in love with Isabel Greenberg’s art ever since I discovered her One Hundred Nights Of Hero (see my review here). This one is a slight departure from that mythical feminist narrative, but rather illustrates the story (told by Cleveland-Peck) of mainly two real-life individuals: (1) Tutankhamun, the young king, and (2) the world-famous archaeologist, Howard Carter, who unearthed his tomb.

The book is divided into three parts, the first one has to do with the boy king being dead and the falcon flying on to heaven. A lot of intrigues and deaths and alliances and betrayals.

The part that really interested me the most was the mummification. The entire process seemed very meticulous and painstaking. There is a great deal of prayer thrown in, with the priest officiating the entire procedure “wearing the jackal-headed mask of Anubis, god of the dead” and chanting off prayers from the Book of the Dead containing “magic spells to help the deceased journey to the afterlife.”

Part Two focuses on Howard Carter and how he discovered the ‘boy king.’ I loved how the book creators also inserted hieroglyphics and their alphabet equivalent – perfect for readers who love writing in codes. Carter was also quite an interesting fellow, very stubborn, and set on his ways. He even ended up at one point, selling his own paintings of Egypt and objects taken from tombs (not allowed in this day and age any longer) so that he can make a little bit of money when he lost his job.

I loved the gradual build-up of the narrative, especially the part when Carter finally discovered the tomb – all very cinematic, I felt.

What made this book really effective for me was that I truly felt that I was with Carter as he finally made that once-in-a-lifetime discovery.

Part Three is more like an afterword at four pages with “Mysteries Solved, Mysteries Found” and a few theories made by historians and archaeologists concerning the fate of Tutankhamun’s widow, Ankhesenamun, and what became of Carter when he finally returned to London.

This is a riveting 64-paged narrative that will definitely appeal to those who are interested in Egypt, pharaohs, and kings, and buried tombs, and ancient curses. I would recommend pairing it with the movie, The Mummy – for the young reader to determine which parts of the narrative are factual, and which ones have used creative license in the retelling. 🙂

#LitWorld2018GB Update: 38 of 40 – Egypt

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12 comments on “[Monday Reading] Biographies of Kings and Pharaohs in Ancient Egypt

  1. The Story of Tutankhamen looks excellent! I was so obsessed with Tutankhamen as a child–I wish this book had been around then!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Those books have gorgeous illustrations!

    Angelica @ Paperback Princess

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ooooh. I really want to read The Story of Tatankhamen!! It looks fascinating. However, not even my oldest (almost 15) will watch The Mummy with us (unless we want a teenager sleeping between us for a few weeks – LOL). Thanks so much for sharing this book, Myra.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. lindabaie

    Our Museum of Nature & Science has a huge ‘mummy’ room, which the grand-girls are fascinated with. I imagine they will enjoy this book about Tutankhamun, Myra. Thanks for the other one, too. Egypt’s early culture is interesting, isn’t it?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I love the Egyptian theme to your reading! These two are a little bit above our reading level (my kids are only 2 and 4) but I am definitely going to grab a copy of them for later 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Jana Eschner

    I’ve had lots of middle grade students who were fascinated by books about ancient Egyptians. I should definitely look for the books on your post this week. Thanks for the suggestions. Have a great week!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I can see that both of these books will be fascinating for that group of readers who are fascinated by the idea of mummies and ancient Egypt. Anything to do with mummification is always a hit! After reading your review I had to go and put a hold on One Hundred Nights Of Hero. I adored The Encyclopedia of Middle Earth.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I remember just being absolutely fascinated with all things ancient Egypt growing up, and I know a lot of kids feel the same fascination, so I’m sure these books will find eager readers!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. anna@herding cats & burning soup

    Oh those are different. I could see that being great for the right age group.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. The Story Of Tutankhamun sounds fascinating!


  11. Sarah Sammis

    These books look interesting. I would have loved them when I was younger. My weekly updates

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I am always so fascinated by Egyptian history and mythology! I know I would love both of these.

    Happy reading this week 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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