Book Review: Voices of Ancient Egypt

Reading Level

Ages 9-12

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Ancient Egypt Glossary
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An Introduction to Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt links

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The folks at National Geographic have another winner on ancient Egypt, this one for slightly older readers. It's called Voices of Ancient Egypt, and its wonderful words and outstanding images will resonate with readers for a long time afterward.

The device for this book is a good one: Each two-page spread is a picture of a worker and the work that he or she does in the society of ancient Egypt. Examples are Scribe, Farmer, Pyramid Builder, Embalmer, Goldsmith, and Washer of Clothes. Each person vividly explains his or her duties (in the words of Kay Winters), and the accompanying images (by Barry Moser) masterfully illustrate that work.

In this way, readers learn about the specialization that developed in ancient Egypt and the allowances it created for creating new disciplines. The vital workforce, like the Farmer and the Pyramid Builder, is intact; also able to thrive are more "civilized" professions like goldsmithing and birdnetting.

Also significant is the inclusion of the Scribe. This profession is actually the first one that the reader encounters, emphasizing the importance of the written record in understanding ancient Egypt.

The professions are presented in a manner that imitates the phases of life as well. The penultimate profession explained is the Marshman, who bears the sarcophagus of the pharaoh to his last resting place, the pyramid that the Pyramid Builder and hundreds of others like him built. The last profession explained is the Marshman, who picks reeds that will become papyrus for the Scribe, which is the first profession explained--an example of the full circle of life.

Also included are hieroglyphs that describe the professions, another nice touch that gives the book a sense of history and propriety. The illustrations have exemplary touches as well, such as the inclusion of animals in certain sketches to remind readers of the sacred status of certain animals such as cats and the use of a shadow on an image of a Pyramid builder to show the hot Sun that is baking all beneath it;

All in all, this is a wonderful book, one that cries out for repeated readings.

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