________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 19 . . . . May 15, 2009

cover Pharaohs and Foot Soldiers: One Hundred Ancient Egyptian Jobs You Might Have Desired or Dreaded.

Kristin Butcher. Illustrated by Martha Newbigging.
Toronto, ON: Annick Press, 2009.
96 pp., pbk. & hc., $16.95 (pbk.), $25.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55451-170-4.
ISBN 978-1-55451-171-6.

Subject Headings:
Occupations-Egypt-Juvenile literature.
Job descriptions-Egypt-Juvenile literature.
Egypt-Civilization-to 332 B.C.-Juvenile literature.

Grades 4-7 / Ages 9-12.

Review by Marilynne V. Black.

**** /4

excerpt:

Today the Nile provides water, electricity, transportation, and soil for farming as well beautiful scenery. If you took a boat ride up the Nile, you'd pass many bustling cities.

That's all very fine, but this book isn't about modern Egypt. It's about ancient Egypt, the time of pyramids and pharaohs (far-rows). It's about Egypt the way it was 5000 years ago! That's not as long ago as dinosaurs, but it is still so far in the past that it's almost impossible to imagine. Of course there were no computers, telephones, or cars back then, but for quite a while ancient Egyptians didn't know what a wheel was either, and they'd never even seen horses!

That didn't stop them from building an amazing civilization that lasted 3,000 years. The best part is that they left mountains of evidence (well, pyramids of evidence, actually) of that entire time. This book is going to explore some of that evidence 末 the monuments, the tombs, the treasures, and the jobs. Especially the jobs.

You would think that when ancient Egypt ended, it was a lot different than when it started. After all, 3,000 years is a long time. Things change. But the truth is things didn't change 末 at least not very much.

Do school libraries need another book about ancient Egypt? When it is this book - a resounding yes! Whereas many titles on ancient Egypt feature the lives of pharaohs and the monuments they built, Butcher's book gives much information often not discussed in others on the topic. This title details the lives of those who actually built and decorated these monuments as well as those that served the pharaoh in many capacities. That it does so in such a fresh, amusing, and interesting way makes this book a "must have" in all school libraries.

     Written in an easy-going informal style, this is a title that will certainly grab children's attention and maintain their interest. The many illustrations are amusingly cartoonish and often have speech balloons. A 16 page general overview helps set the subsequent chapters in the context of the times and cultural mores.

     Chapters encompass one of 15 categories such as: Army Jobs, Nile Jobs, Assisting Pharaoh Jobs, and At-Your-Service Jobs. Within each of these chapters, there are between four and 11 related subcategories. For instance, in Chapter 11: Daily Bread 末 and Beer Jobs, there are up to a page devoted to each of the following: Grinding Girl, Baker, Brewer, and Cook/Chef. On the other hand, others are much more extensive as in Chapter 2: Monumental Jobs includes Engineer, Architect, Mathematician, Laborer, Stone Hauler, Foreman, Water Carrier, Stonemason, Stone Setter, Brick Maker, Scribe of Outlines, and Colorist. At the end of each job description, there is often a statement advising of an advantage or disadvantage to the job or an amusing caution. In the short section subtitled Lodge Keeper, it states; "As the lodge keeper, it is your job to guard the gate in the wall. You decide who goes in and who doesn't. If Pharaoh comes to visit, let him in." In the description for the position of Gardener, it ends, "If you have a green thumb, you might make a good gardener." There are enough details to make each career easily understood yet is chock-o-block full of information. For example, the description of the arrows used by archers includes:

You carry a quiver of 30 arrows. Some are made of wood, some from reeds. Early arrowheads were made of stone or bone, but yours are bronze. They have different shapes. Thin pointed ones plunge deep into your enemy. If they hit the lungs or heart, your victim will die quickly.

The hooked arrowheads tear your victims' flesh wide open. This could mean a slower death.

     Although the author does not shy away from such grim facts, there are also many with a humorous tone making it that more enticing to young readers.

not everyone owned a boat, so when they needed to cross the river they took a ferry. In the dry season, when the waters were at their lowest, people could wade across some of the shallower parts 末 if they were willing to risk meeting up with hippos or crocodiles, that is. Passengers often bring chickens, goats, and other animals with them, so be prepared for some crowded 末 and smelly 末 trips.

     Unknown words are in italics but there is no glossary. However, the meaning is quite evident within the sentence. A number of pages contain sidebars. For instance, under the description of the Pharmacist's job, there is a small list of prescriptions commonly used. For bad eyesight, it is recommended that a concoction of honey, red lead, and pig tears be poured into your ear! Others give more informative explanations to supplement the main text. For example, alongside the description of the Scribe's job are details about the Rosetta Stone and Hieroglyphs. The book also includes a Table of Contents, Recommended Further Reading as well as a detailed index.

     Kristin Butcher is a prolific and versatile award-winning writer who has produced 12 novels for a variety of age ranges and interests. The genres and topics include fantasy, sports, science, and mystery. Pharaohs and Foot Soldiers is a departure as it is nonfiction yet contains much evidence that she is a skilled writer.

Highly Recommended.

Marilynne V. Black is a former B.C. elementary teacher-librarian who completed her Master of Arts in Children's Literature (UBC) in the spring of 2005. She is now working as an independent children's literature consultant with a web site at www.heartofthestory.ca.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.
 

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