Karen Foster (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Museum, 1999) 28 pp., $6.95 Ages 7–11
This ancient Sumerian tale about wise and wicked kings, canny sorcerers and a cuneiform tablet is faithfully retold and illustrated with paper-cut drawings reminiscent of seal impressions. Most children will be amused by the king of Aratta’s arrogant dismissal of people and cultures unfamiliar with the Sumerians’ proud new invention—writing. But beware: The tale has numerous characters with difficult names and a bewildering number of plot twists.
The Tomb of the Boy King
John Frank (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2001) 32 pp., $16, ages 8–12
What child doesn’t get the shivers when first hearing about the discovery of King Tut’s tomb? This picture book, marvelously illustrated by Tom Pohrt, has all the ingredients of a page-turner: Howard Carter, the plucky British adventurer who finally uncovers Tut’s burial chamber; rich Lord Carnarvon, who underwrites the cost of the expedition and meets with a mysterious death; dank crypts containing golden thrones and silver trumpets; and, of course, King Tuthankhamun, the boy king. The story is written in poetic quatrains that beg to be read aloud, but adults may be annoyed by rhymes (spot/thought, door/corridor) that occasionally miss the mark.
Mummies, Bones, & Body Parts
Charlotte Wilcox (Minneapolis: Carolrhoda Books, Inc., 2000) 64 pp., $7.95, ages 10 and up
Exploring the science and secrets behind mummified human remains, this paperback is filled with unflinching color photos that will mesmerize preteen readers. Leathery bodies pulled out of peat bogs, freeze-dried Inca children and tattooed Mongolian princesses provide archaeologists and paleopathologists with valuable clues about ancient societies. The author also discusses such modern mummification techniques as cryonics (the practice of freezing a person’s body immediately after death, in the hopes that the individual can be revived in the future) and plastination (a method of preserving human corpses by replacing the water in their bodies with plastic).
The Young Oxford Book of Archaeology
Norah Moloney (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000) 160 pp., $16.95, ages 9 and up
Put this lively, lavishly illustrated reference book in the hands of your child and in ten years she’ll probably be signing up for an Archaeology 101 course. Mysterious Stonehenge, sunken cities and shipwrecks, Paleolithic caves and Viking settlements in the New World are among a dozen digs examined in depth. The author also provides an introductory chapter on the field techniques used to decode these sites.
The Ancient Greek Olympics
Richard Woff (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000) 32 pp., $16.95, ages 8–12
Why did ancient Greek athletes shed their clothes to compete in the Olympics? Which event was an important warfare skill? What penalty was imposed for making a false start during a foot race? (A whipping!) There’s lots of information packed into this slender volume illustrated with colorful photographs of Greek statues, coins and pottery depicting athletic scenes.
Ancient Egyptians and their Neighbors
Marian Broida (Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 1999) 186 pp., $16.95, ages 8–14
This clever activity guide blows the dust off the distant past by encouraging children to create their very own versions of the clothing, food and ceremonial objects that were part and parcel of everyday life in the ancient world. Scores of hands-on projects—along with easy-to-digest history lessons, diagrams and photographs—will have young readers decoding secret Mesopotamian writing, building model ziggurats, pyramids and Nubian mudbrick houses, and whipping up tasty dinners fit for Hittite royalty (minus the pig’s milk, of course).
The City of Rainbows
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