Friday, January 29, 2010

REVIEW: Pharaoh's Boat

Pharaoh's BoatWeitzman, D.  (2009).  Pharaoh's Boat.  Boston:  Houghton Mifflin Books for Children.

Appetizer:  The pharaoh Cheops had died and must be properly sent into the afterlife to the sun god, Re.  Weitzman shares the process that the Ancient Egyptians went through to prepare Cheops's boat.  Contrasting this, Weitzman also shares how the space where the ancient Egyptians stored the boats was discovered in the 1950s and how Ahmed Youssef Moustafa worked to restore the boat.

Wietzman is very thorough, showing each step of the boat building process, the tools used and the reasons why the boats were designed the way they were.

I liked how he showed the parallels of the Egyptian workers building the boat and how Moustafa and his staff reconstructed it.  I do wish that these scenes had been shown back and forth instead of telling one story and then the later one.  I think it would have been more powerful to go back and forth for regularly (Although, there is one page where Moustafa works on one end and an Ancient Egyptian worker does his thing on the other side).

While thorough, I have to admit, I kinda-sorta lost interest in reading the text as it went on.  While part of my problem was how text-heavy this picturebook was, my main issue was the fact that the story didn't follow any specific or well-developed character.
Instead, the narrative consisted of "The shipbuilders did this...Then the shipbuilders did that...."  And although important, Moustafa wasn't really a character that children will relate to immediately.  I did, however, like that there were foldout pages and a lot of direct quotes by Moustafa (That guy was eloquent!).

The illustrations are striking, because they're done in the style of the Egyptian hieroglyphs.  There's also a clear distinction to those that were done to represent the 1950s (and on) when Moustafa was doing his work.

Dinner Conversation:

"In 1954, workmen began clearing away tongs of windblown sand and rubble that had piled up against the south face of the Great Pyramid at Giza.  As they dug, there suddenly appeared an old stone boundary wall.  Strange.  They weren't expecting to find a wall here."

"The ancient shipwrights fashioned huge, sleek ships from the trunks and branches with a few simple bronze tools."

"Cheops would soon be making his last journey in the world, from his palace at Thebes down the Nile to his pyramid tomb at Giza, where his boats would be waiting for him."

"Ahmed Youssef Moustafa, chief of the Restoration Department of the Egyptian Antiquities Service, was chosen to direct the recovery, preservation and reconstruction of the huge ancient ship--an almost impossible task that no one had ever undertaken before."

To Go with the Meal:

This book can trigger deeper discussions of Ancient Egyptian culture, religion, geography, the flow of the Nile, and the work of archaeologists and restorationists.  The book can also trigger a fair number of research projects--whether into subjects like Egyptian archaeology, mummification, religion or the process of different types of boat construction.

A teacher could also focus on the way the past is still alive and influencing the present.

This is a good book to honestly show the work of Archaeologists without, you know, mummies coming alive and interrupting them.

Tasty Rating:  !!!

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