Gartner’s well-researched novel is suffused with atmospheric detail. John and Sarah’s exciting experiences include escaping crocodiles, facing off with cobras, and helping to build the pyramid. These scenes alternate with moments of ancient Egyptian domesticity, including cooking tilapia stew and playing board games. Gartner has a relaxed, playful sense of humor that comes through in the interactions between Zachariah’s family and the Tidewell siblings, and he weaves an intricate tapestry of the past.
John and Sarah’s assimilation into ancient Egyptian society feels too easy. Sarah’s blasé attitude of “Even if we are stuck here, no sense worrying about it, right?” is unrealistic even for an adrenaline-junkie tween, and she waves off John’s concerns and homesickness in a way that feels heartless at times. However, younger readers who mostly want a glimpse of life in another time and place will find plenty to enjoy in this glittering picture of a distant era.
Takeaway: Grade schoolers eager to learn about daily life in ancient Egypt will find this adventure novel hits the sweet spot.
Great for fans of Lloyd Alexander’s Time Cat, Eloise Jarvis McGraw.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A