The Eye of Ra, by Ben Gartner, for Timeslip Tuesday

If you are looking for a book to give a young Egyptologist of 9 or so, who loved the time travel adventures of the Magic Treehouse books last year, but is ready to move, The Eye of Ra  (Crescent Vista Press, February 2020) is a good choice.  

Summer vacation has started, and John and Sarah are happy to say goodbye to 4th and 6th grade, respectively.  But won't be in Colorado to enjoy it; their family is moving to Maryland.  On one last family hike, the kids discover a cave in the woods that turns out to be a portal that takes them back in time to ancient Egypt.

They are lucky that the time travelling magic makes things easy for them, and that the first person they meet is a friendly kid their own age, Zachariah, the son of Imhotep, the architect of the step-pyramid of Djoser.  Zach takes them home with him, and they are fed and sheltered by his family, and go to work helping build the pyramid.  But all is not well- Egypt isn't an entirely safe place, what with cobras, scorpions, and crocodiles, and there's a saboteur at work, vandalizing statues. 

But before the mystery is solved, John and Sarah figure out how to get back to their own time, inadvertently taking Zach and two other Egyptian kids back home with them!  Now instead of seeing ancient Egypt through modern eyes, we see our own world as a strange and foreign place of magic before they return to their own time.

Wrapping the story up, past and present meet one last time at the cave, and the mystery of the vandal is resolved without anyone having to take direct action (which felt a bit anticlimactic).

This is the sort of book I think of as primarily time travel tourism--the journey to another time is straightforward, and difficulties of culture and language are easily dealt with.  The translation magic at work here is particularly effective--the Egyptian boy, Zach, sounds just like an American kid.  "Whatever." Adding to the gloss of American normalness, Sarah and John give nicknames to other Egyptian kids, who become Ella and Rich.  It's almost too easy--yes, Sarah and John are homesick and anxious, but they never have any particularly powerful feelings of dislocation or cross-cultural strangeness.  The Egyptian kids in our time experience much more of this, but since they aren't point of view characters, it's more amusing than emotionally gripping.

So it was slightly disappointing to me personally, but I, of course, am not the target audience.  I can imagine kids enjoying this one lots, and learning details about life in ancient Egypt along the way!

1 comment:

  1. This sounds like a fun book for younger middle-grade readers. Ancient Egypt is always a popular topic, so it should do well. Thanks for the heads up.


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