Thursday, April 28, 2016

Historical Fiction Set in Ancient Egypt, with Chris Eboch

The author in Egypt 20 years ago
In my experience, kids – and teachers – love ancient Egypt. It's long ago and far away, and yet somehow the personalities shine through the millennia and resonate with us today. A love poem from a young woman says, "My heart thought of my love of you when half of my hair was braided. I came at a run to find you and neglected my hairdo." (What Life Was like on the Banks of the Nile, Time Life Books, page 36.) These windows into the past show us that the human soul has been much the same for 5000 years.

There aren't as many novel set in ancient Egypt as I would like to see, but here's a short list of some that should be appropriate for middle grade students.

Middle Grade Historical Fiction Set in Ancient Egypt

Pharaoh’s Daughter: A Novel of Ancient Egypt, by Julius Lester: “Born into slavery, adopted as an infant by a princess, and raised in the palace of mighty Pharaoh, Moses struggles to define himself. And so do the three women who love him: his own embittered mother, forced to give him up by Pharaoh's decree; the Egyptian princess who defies her father and raises Moses as her own child; and his headstrong sister Almah, who discovers a greater kinship with the Egyptian deities than with her own God of the Hebrews. Told by Moses and his sister Almah from alternating points of view, this stunning novel by Newbery Honor-author Julius Lester probes questions of identity, faith, and destiny.”

The Golden Goblet, by Eloise Jarvis McGraw - Ancient Egypt: “A Newbery Honor Book: Ranofer wants only one thing in the world: to be a master goldsmith like his beloved father was. But how can he when he is all but imprisoned by his evil half brother, Gebu? Ranofer knows the only way he can escape Gebu's abuse is by changing his destiny. But can a poor boy with no skills survive on the cutthroat streets of ancient Thebes? Then Ranofer finds a priceless golden goblet in Gebu's room and he knows his luck−and his destiny−are about to change.”

A Place in the Sun, by Jill Rubalcaba: “When Senmut, a young stone sculptor, is exiled for life to the gold mines of Nubia, he must count on all his skills in order to survive. A novel of bristling intrigue, set against the dramatic historical backdrop of 13th century B.C. Egypt.”

Mara, Daughter of the Nile, by Eloise McGraw (Set in the time of Queen Hatshepsut): “Mara is a proud and beautiful slave girl who yearns for freedom. In order to gain it, she finds herself playing the dangerous role of double spy for two arch enemies – each of whom supports a contender for the throne of Egypt.”

Cleopatra VII: Daughter of the Nile, Egypt, 57 B.C. (The Royal Diaries), by Kristiana Gregory: “Established Dear America author Kristiana Gregory kicks off the Royal Diaries with the captivating story of young Cleopatra's tumultuous life. Daughter of King Ptolemy Autletes, Pharaoh of Egypt, Cleopatra lives a life filled with opulence and mystery.”

The Wadjet Eye, by Jill Rubalcaba: “A historical novel set in 45 B.C. Damon's medical training under the Pharaoh's own physician didn't prepare him for his mother's last illness—or for the adventure that follows. Damon must travel from Alexandria all the way to Spain, where his father is fighting in Caesar's army, to deliver the news of his mother's death to the father he hardly knows. Soon the quiet, studious Damon and his best friend, the soldierly Artemas, are caught up in danger and intrigue--from shipwreck and shark attack to the political maneuverings of Cleopatra, Cicero, and Caesar. Fast-paced and suspenseful, this compelling historical novel combines page-turning excitement with a well-researched portrait of the ancient world.”

Several of these are older books, and some feel a bit outdated in their style now, but they are still worth a read. Which brings us to my novel:

The Eyes of Pharaoh, by Chris Eboch: “Set in Egypt in 1177 BC, brings an ancient world to life. When Reya hints that Egypt is in danger from foreign nomads, Seshta and Horus don’t take him seriously. How could anyone challenge Egypt? Then Reya disappears. To save their friend, Seshta and Horus spy on merchants, soldiers, and royalty, and start to suspect even The Eyes of Pharaoh, the powerful head of the secret police. Will Seshta and Horus escape the traps set for them, rescue Reya, and stop the plot against Egypt in time?”

“I found the book fascinating for many reasons. It is informative and educational and it is not only about Egypt but also about friendship and loyalty. The many dimensions in the plot make it an engaging read. The characters are relatable and the author's writing gives a good pace to the story. The twists and turns in the plot make it a compelling read. The setting of the story shows the extensive research the author must have done to make it enjoyable to readers. The mystery that runs through the plot is intriguing and the images are vivid. The author does an excellent job by bringing ancient Egypt to life through this story and giving readers a lot of information about the beliefs that existed in society during that period, as well as the culture and history.” Readers’ Favorite review

Do you know of any wonderful novels for young people set in ancient Egypt to add to the list?

Chris Eboch writes fiction and nonfiction for all ages, with several novels for ages nine and up. The Genie’s Gift draws on the mythology of 1001 Arabian Nights to take readers on a fantasy adventure. In The Well of Sacrifice, a Mayan girl in ninth-century Guatemala rebels against the High Priest who sacrifices anyone challenging his power. Learn more at or her Amazon page, or check out her writing tips at her Write Like a Pro! blog.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Enter to Win!

Jennifer Bohnhoff's Midgrade Historical Novel The Bent Reed is currently featured on Amazon as a Kindle Give-Away. Five copies of this book, set in Gettysburg during the Civil War, will be given away to participants who are residents of the US, 18 years of age, or older, and opt to follow the author on Amazon. To enter, click here

Thursday, April 14, 2016

The History We Make

by Suzanne Morgan Williams

It's an election year and adults will be making some important decisions. I can't help thinking that we'd all be better prepared if we had a solid education in history, political decisions, and their consequences for the country and the world.

I do a lot of school visits and I taught for a number of years. Try explaining genocide or slavery or war and conquest to a ten year old. They’ll ask you, “Why?” And they should! I’d say there is no logical answer to this, and yet, we humans continue to back ourselves into places where power, greed, or difficult circumstances breed oppression and hatred. That’s part of the answer.

The bigger question is why don’t people take other paths? How would they do that? And another – when we travel back in time fifty or a hundred or maybe five hundred years and try to understand and portray what happened, is that impossible? Were people so different in their outlooks, values, and expectations that we can’t understand them? What part of humanity is unchangeable and what can be evolved, grown out of, hopefully for the better?

Historical fiction gives faces and emotions to the facts. It can help children explore alternate plots and creative ways to deal with adversity. Are these characters accurate to the times? Are they reworked to modern sensibilities, or a blend of the two? A careful reader will ask those questions. I’d say that historical accuracy is fundamental but that, in creating modern work authors will bring a different point of view. They can’t help it. So is historical fiction real? No, it’s fiction. But historical fiction is a gateway to real history and the questions it poses. I’m all for that.

How does interest in history translate into today’s decisions? What role does history play in current events? By presenting the past in understandable, human details, historical fiction may let our children and grandchildren see that today’s decisions – to go to war, to accept or reject refugees and immigrants, to fund schools, prisons, health care, or armies – these all have direct effects on people’s lives, right now. History is nothing but story after story after story. Decision after decision. What we do with our lives matters. Let’s read historical fiction, then talk about the past and our future. And most of all, what can we do to help each other today?

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Cobblestone Magazine: One Path to Learning History by Mary Louise Sanchez

For the past thirty or so years, each month I experience the same thrill I had as a child, when a magazine, addressed to my sister and me, came in the mail. The thrill is even more compounded now because Cobblestone Magazine fuels my passion for learning American history. 

The award winning Cobblestone Magazine has been making American history come alive for students, primarily ages 9-14, for thirty six years.

Through the featured short articles, readers learn about civics, economics, geography, and history, while using primary and secondary sources. Even though the magazine is geared towards children, I find it enlightening and entertaining as an adult. I learn so much in every issue and have saved each one for my family's own personal history library. The magazine even has indexes which I use to find the issues I want to use for lessons with students. 

As a teacher/librarian, I also purchased the magazine for the school library and purchased class sets of various themes and topics that fit our curriculum. Teachers used plastic overlays for students to highlight main ideas, for close reading purposes, and to study text features. 

In forty eight pages each issue provides various articles that address the chosen American history theme from various decades of our country's history. For instance, the March 2016 issue is entitled, REVOLUTIONARY WOMEN-Our Founding Mothers. There are articles about Abigail Adams; the spectacular ride of sixteen-year-old Sybil Ludington on April 16, 1777 who warned the colonists about the impending British; how Martha Washington and other officers' wives brought cheer to their husbands at Valley Forge; women of color during the Revolutionary War; the legend of Molly Pitcher; secret soldiers; a young poet, Phyllis Wheatley; and others.

 Various consulting editors are chosen for each issue because of their expertise with the topic and theme. Each issue always has the "child's interests, questions, and knowledge in mind."
There are true stories, taken from the rich diversity of our people, who have influenced our country's history.
Fun puzzles and Did You Know facts are in each issue, as are multiple sources of information in the form of maps, captions, highlighted vocabulary, and cartoons. The magazines also include recommended websites for additional resources. Older issues had a feature called "Digging Deeper" which suggested books to read and places to visit. 

The magazine is in print and/or digital format for nine issues each year, coinciding with the school year. Themes are selected by first studying recommended national standards and state curricula, major anniversaries of historical events or people. The scope and depth of each issue truly adds to a unique history experience for young and old.

Have you read this magazine? I hope I've motivated you to take a look at Cobblestone.