BookMusings: (Re)Discovering Pagan Literature

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On Ancient Egypt, for Children


When I was a kid, I devoured books on ancient Egypt. I was fascinated by the Gods and Goddesses and mythology and great temples and pyramids -- and especially by stories of female Pharaohs such as Hatshepsut and Cleopatra. While my spiritual path eventually led me to Hellenismos, rather than Kemeticism, I continued to remain intrigued by that land and its culture. As a result, I ended up with a nice collection of books about ancient Egypt, a number of which are aimed at kids (and the young at heart). Below are a few of my highly recommended favorites, in order roughly according to reading level.

Tutankamen's Gift by Robert Sabuda (ages 5+) is a wonderful, uplifting tale. A small, frail child, Tutankhamen loves the beautiful temples of Egypt. He is greatly saddened when a new Pharaoh comes to power, outlaws the worship of the Gods, and begins to dismantle the sacred sites. Gorgeous papyrus illustrations accompany the simple text; I particularly love the scene in which the Gods, in the form of the wind, whisper to Tutankhamen. A great introduction to an important Pagan historical figure.

Muti's Necklace: The Oldest Story in the World (ages 7+) by Louise Hawes and Rebecca Guay is precisely that: an illustrated adaptation of the oldest known work of fiction. Found in the Papyrus Westcar, this is the story of a young girl who becomes a servant of Pharaoh. When her beloved necklace falls into a lake, Pharaoh summons his magician to retrieve it. A plucky heroine, a cunning magician, a non-traditional ending, and stunning illustrations. Curl up on the couch with a cup of tea and escape into a ancient magical land.

Cleopatra (ages 7+) by Peter Vennema and Diane Stanley is a solid, entertaining and highly informative biography with unusual mosaic-style illustrations. Sure to lead young readers to ask lots of questions and seek out more books about the last Ptolemy. 

I have already recommended Of Numbers and Stars: The Story of Hypatia (ages 7+) by D Anne Love and Pamela Paparone -- but, hey, it can never hurt to mention an awesome book as often as possible.

Originally published in the early 20th century, Roger Lancelyn Green's Tales of Ancient Egypt is a classic collection of stories. You will find everything here from mythology to adventure tales to the world's oldest known version of Cinderella. A number of editions have been released over the years, but I recommend the Puffin Classics version.

The Treasured Thief (ages 12+) by Ryan Foley and Sachin Nagar is a graphic novel filled with action, romance, deceit, and danger. When Kharzim, the architect who designed and built Pharaoh's great tomb, is threatened, his sons do the unthinkable: they use a secret tunnel to access the tomb and steal some of its treasure to save their father. Pharaoh is enraged when he discovers the theft -- and thus begins a clever game of cat and mouse .... A fun tale that will appeal to fans of the Indiana Jones films.

His Majesty, Queen Hatshepsut (ages 12+) by Dorothy Sharp Carter was one of my favorite novels as a tween. Egypt was already cool, but the fact that a woman had ruled as Pharaoh in her own right made it even cooler.

In contrast to the previous entry, which portrays Hatshepsut as an heroic and wise figure, Mara, Daughter of the Nile (ages 13+) by Eloise Jarvis McGraw paints a very negative portrait of the female Pharaoh. Nonetheless, it remains one of my favorites. Who wouldn't love a book filled with spies, intrigue, and forbidden romance? Yes, I totally had a crush on Lord Sheftu. Think of this as The Scarlet Pimpernel of ancient Egypt. (McGraw is also the author of the excellent The Golden Goblet.)

Richard Peck's Blossom Culp and the Sleep of Death (ages 13+) technically counts for this list since it involves time travel. Sort of. The story centers around teen psychic and budding feminist Blossom, stuck in backwater Bluff City in 1914. When Blossom discovers the real Egyptian mummy at the carnival, she feels honor bound to help the spirit of the deceased princess return to her tomb. Occasionally antic, with a hint of romance. (If you like this one, there is an entire series of Blossom Culp books.)

Years ago, I stumbled across Mary Stolz' Cat in the Mirror (ages 13+) in my middle school library. It was a battered, much loved book. It took a while for me to eventually track down a copy of my own; I don't think it has been rereleased since its initial publication in 1977. Teenage Erin, trapped in an unhappy home with distant parents, falls into a coma and relives/remembers a previous life in ancient Egypt. Lots of meticulous research, plus a really neat cat.  

So, there you have them: a few of my favorite books about the Gods and people and culture of ancient Egypt. Did I miss any of your favorites? If so, drop me a line.

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Rebecca Buchanan is the editor of the Pagan literary ezine Eternal Haunted Summer. She is also the editor-in-chief of Bibliotheca Alexandrina. She thinks it is incredibly unfair that she must work for a living rather than being able to read all day. In her next life, she would like to be a library cat.


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