Kids Read: Egypt

Everytime I think “oh, I’ll have no problem finding books from this country,” I have a problem. I was able to find one Egyptian-American children’s book author writing in English, and one Candian-Egyptian author. I didn’t find any that were translated into English. . I would love to hear of any books you know about from Egypt, or by Egyptian authors.

There are sooooo many books about ancient Egypt, mummies, pyramids etc. so I’m not going to include those here as I’m sure you would easily be able to find a few with a quick search.

This week we are also enjoying the posts and conversations happening over at World Kid Lit , which is hosting World Kid Lit Month. Are you reading any books from around the world this month?

If you know of any other great picture books set in, or about Egypt, please let me know so I can do a follow up post!


Kid Reads

The Lion that Dressed Like a Sheep

“Instead, she pushed all the wool off of him until he stood as he was, a lion before his herd for all to see.”

The Lion that Dressed as a Sheep, by Egyptian-American author Dina Elabd, and illustrator Rana Shaltout, is self-published. It tells the story of Rana, a young girl who lives with her blind father tending sheep. After the other townspeople decide to kill the lions living in the jungle nearby who eat their sheep, Rana discovers a lion cub hiding in the grass alone. To keep him safe and hidden, Rana dresses the cub as a sheep. As the years pass, the lion becomes more difficult to hide. However, when a group of wolves moves into the jungle, it is up to the lion to save Rana and her sheep, finally revealing his true nature.

This is a fun story, with a good lesson about being yourself and being honest with others is tucked in at the end. My 4 1/2 year old got a kick out of the fact the lion was dressed up as a sheep, but isn’t sure that could really happen. My girls have asked for this one to be read a few times.

I purchased this book for this project.

Goha the Wise Fool

Goha the Wise Fool, by Canadian-Egyptian author Denys Johnson-Davies  and illustrated by Egyptian tentmakers Hany El Saed Ahmed & Hag Hamdy Mohamed Fattouh, published by Philomel Books, is a collection of 15 short stories all featuring the ancient Middle-Eastern character of Goha. My girls enjoyed these entertaining tales because of the tricks and silly things Goha does in all of them.

The illustrations in this book are photographs of hand-sewn khiyamiya’s drawn and sewn in Cairo’s Old Islamic Quarter, which was built 350 years ago. They are all works of art.

I borrowed this book from our local library.

We’re Sailing Down the Nile: A Journey Through Egypt

We’re Sailing Down the Nile: A Journey Through Egypt, by Laurie Krebs & Anne Wilson, published by Barefoot Books, features popular tourist attractions along Egypt’s Nile River with bright illustrations and rhyming text. 

My 2 1/2 year old loved the rhythm and rhyme in this book.  She bounced her head along to the story, which follows a group of people on board a boat from Upper Egypt, through Lower Egypt, and into the Mediterranean Sea.

 A map of the journey, along with a short description of each attraction included is in the back of the book, along with the history of ancient Egypt, information about the social groups in ancient Egypt, mummies and pyramids, floods, gods and goddesses, and Egyptian scripts. This would be a great introduction to a unit on Egypt, or to use as the beginning of an Egyptian geography lesson.

I purchased this book years ago for classroom use.

Miriam at the River

“The basket skims past a yellow-billed storkwho stands with angel wings held high.Past an ibis dipping it’s long beak into the waterso very like a scribe’s pen in ink.”

Miriam at the River, by Jane Yolen  and Khoa Le, published by Kar-Ben (imprint of Lerner) Publishing, is the biblical story of Moses, who, as a baby, was placed by his sister in a basket on the Nile River in Egypt to keep him safe from Pharaoh’s men, who wanted to kill him. Told from the point of view of Miriam, Moses’ sister, this book follows him until he is discovered and taken in by the Pharaoh’s daughter. 

Master storyteller Jane Yolen does not disappoint with this story told in simple, yet poetic prose that captures the experience Miriam may have had when she let her little brother go floating down the Nile. There is so much room for conversation about hope, strength, and familial love from this text. The stunning jewel-tone illustrations perfectly capture the mood Yolen has created. It is clear Yolen & Le extensively researched the historic Nile River with their inclusion of flora and fauna native to the region.

I borrowed this book from our local library.

Hands Around the Library: Protecting Egypt’s Treasured Books

“Our ancient Egyptian stories

are kept alive here,

in the books,and in the carved stone

and shimmering glass

of the building itself.

Hands Around the Library: Protecting Egypt’s Treasured Books, by Susan L. Roth & Karen Leggett Abouraya, published by Dial Books for Young Readers, tells the inspiring true story of the people who came together to protect Alexandria’s library from angry protestors in 2011. People coming together to save books so their stories can be shared and endure is something I can definitely get behind.

I think this book does a great job explaining some difficult concepts clearly and gently to young children, among them democracy, freedom, and protesting. It beautifully reinforces the importance of protecting stories, no matter who wrote them, or what they contain. Both my girls love stories and books, so I hope this story reinforces how important it is to protect the stories they love.

I borrowed this book from our local library.

The Hundredth Name

“Salah saw immediately that Qadiim was standing proud and tall, his incredibly long neck curved toward the sky, his head held erect. And on his face, a look not only of happiness but-and Salah’s heart gave a thump – a look of infinite wisdom.”

The Hundredth Name, by Shulamith Levy Oppenheim & Michael Hays, published by Boyds Mills Press, is set long ago in a small village in Muslim Egypt on the banks of the Nile River. It is the story of young Salah who is sad because his camel, Qadiim, is sad. Salah wishes more than anything he could make Qadiim happy; that he would stand tall and proud. After watching his father pray, Salah decides he will pray to Allah to reveal his hundredth, and most important name, but only to Qaddim.  When Salah wakes up the next morning, he discovers how happy and proud Qaddim is, his prayer must have worked.

Muslim practices are woven throughout the story, providing a great way to start a conversation about youngesters with the importance of religion in the lives of people around the world.

I borrowed this book from our local library.

The Day of Ahmed’s Secret

“My donkey pulls the cart I ride on. I have many stops to make today. The streets are crowded. Everyone is going somewhere. Like me, everyone has something important to do.”

The Day of Ahmed’s Secret, by Florence Parry Heide & Judith Heide Gilliland, illustrated by Ted Lewin, published by Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books, is the story of young Ahmed, who, as he moves around the city of Cairo all day, holds a secret close to himself. It tells of the work he does with pride, of the people he interacts with, and the things he sees and hears. It also introduces the reader to the geography and culture of Cairo.

The illustrations in this book provide insight into the sights and sounds one may encounter around Cairo. My girls really enjoyed this story, and could not wait to find out what Ahmed’s secret was. The secret pulls you through the story to the end. Of course, when the secret was revealed, my 4 1/2 year old had to show us multiple times she could be just like Ahmed, that she could share his secret. She made a great connection with him as a result.

I borrowed this book from our local library.

Of Numbers and Stars: The Story of Hypatia

“Under her father’s watchful eyes, Hypatia learned to swim in the calm, sun-bright sea.  She learned the names of all the fishes and how to catch them with a spear.”

Of Numbers and Stars: The Story of Hypatia, by D. Anne Love & Pam Paparone, published by Holiday House, tells the true story of Hypatia, who lived in the Egyptian city of Alexandria during the 4th century CE. The book starts out painting a picture of what Egypt was like during that time period, when it was not common for women to be educated. Her father, a professor, educated Hypatia himself, teaching her practical things like rowing and horseback riding, but also reading, writing, and eventually arithmetic. Later she became a world-famous lecturer and author. She even inspired the invention of the astrolabe. 

This is a wonderful introduction picture book biography. It does not get bogged down with specific dates, and does not go into very specific information; rather it focuses on the big picture. If you would like more specific information about her, there is a short bibliography in the back matter. There is also information about the ancient Egyptians and how they invented the decimal system that we still use today.

As the parents of two young girls, it is important to us that they see strong women who defy/defied gender norms and made their mark on the world. As a scientist, my husband really loves when we find biographies about women in science and math, because he can then spend some time with the girls showing them his “world”.

I borrowed this book from our local library.

Resources

While I didn’t focus on all the great nonfiction books about pyramids and ancient Egypt that are out there, I did pull a few good books from our school library and make them available for my 4th grade reading group this week. Ancient Egypt is fascinating to kids (and adults of all ages). 

If you’re looking for some background, projects, and activities to do with your kiddos when studying ancient Egypt, or Egypt today, I recommend the unit study pictured by Little World Wanderers. It includes background information about Egypt, pyramids, weathering, the Arabic language, a book list, and more.  There are science and art projects that correlate with many of the topics introduced in the study. Last week was our first week all back at school, so we didn’t have a lot of time for extra projects, but I hope to circle back and do some of them soon!



I’d love to hear what books, projects, artists, music, and other fun things you’d recommend from Haiti. Email me, message me, or comment/DM on Instagram.

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