by Emily Sands and Dugald Steer
Back in 2003, Dragonology hit bookstore shelves, launching the “Ologies” series. I remember thinking at the time that it was the perfect Christmas present for a kid. Every year, a new book would come out, and the quality of each volume was such that in spite of the fact that I was well outside the intended audience age range, I had to check them out. This year, I thought it would be fun to look back and review some of my favorite volumes from the series.
In 1926 , the ambitious Egyptologist Emily Sands set out with an expedition to uncover the long lost Tomb of Osiris, the mythical king turned god of the dead in the Egyptian pantheon. She was armed with a mysterious papyrus and funded by her patroness, the Lady Farncombe. As she traveled down the Nile, Sands recorded her observations in a diary. However, Emily Sands and her expedition disappeared without a trace, and her family long suspected that she had fallen victim to bandits or wild beasts. When her diary was discovered, nearly eighty years later, it was published in a facsimile so that scholars could benefit from Ms. Sand's knowledge.
Like Dragonology, Egyptology is an interactive book aimed at kids in elementary school. It contains maps, “mummy cloth” samples, postcards and travel tags that look appropriately vintage, and page after page of sketches and “diary entries” about life in Ancient Egypt. There are really two stories going on at once. The first, of course, is the history of Ancient Egypt, which kids will find educational. The second is the mysterious expedition led by Emily Sands, which is entirely fictional. I thought it was fun, since it helped to tie together Sands' travels from one historic site to the next, but I could see it confusing children who might think that the Tomb of Osiris is a real archaeological site.
The book itself is gorgeous. The cover, with its golden bird and ruby jewel, immediately pops out on any bookshelf. The illustrations are quite beautiful; supposedly, they are expedition sketches done 'on the fly', but they look far too polished and careful for that. Each spread is typically centered on a historic site, like the temple at Karnak or Hieraconopolis. The author shares a mix of historic facts, Egyptian trivia, and little details about her expedition's adventures. (For example, she visited Hieraconopolis on Christmas Day, so that spread includes a Christmas card and a little sketch of her party celebrating the holiday.) On another page, an Egyptian game called Senet is described, and sketched onto the page is a gameboard. A pocket envelope opens to reveal little paper game pieces so that the reader can try the game out right then and there.
Once again, the attention to detail really makes this Ologies book shine. But I wonder if they were able to maintain the quality in subsequent volumes?
4.5 out of 5 stars
To read more about Egyptology, buy it or add it to your wishlist click here.
Peeking into the archives...today in:
2011: The Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory
2010: The Candidates (Delcroix Academy #1) by Inara Scott
2009: Going on hiatus...
2008: Company of Liars by Karen Maitland