Mummies, not daddies, bring social science to life By Judy Belanger :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

Children in either fifth or sixth grade often study ancient civilizations in a social science unit. The books I'm reviewing here will enhance those studies and help students who want to know just a little bit more.

I wish I had these books when I was a school librarian. We often had a hard time finding information to answer all the students' questions. I'm glad a few authors have used their expertise to produce material for this fascinating period of history.

And if you need a visual resource, try "Reading Rainbow." While there are no new shows being produced for PBS, "Reading Rainbow" episode No. 54, "Mummies Made in Egypt," fits in very well. Host LeVar Burton visits the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the curators explain Egyptian artifacts. They also use the measurements from a skeleton and recreate a person's face. Suggestions and study guides for using this and other "Reading Rainbow" videos are available at

SEE-THROUGH MUMMIES, by John Malam, Running Press, $15.95; ages 8-12.

Egyptians believed death was another stage in a person's continuing life. To enter the next stage, the body had to be preserved in very specific ways. Following all of the proper steps takes 70 days. Wrapping mummies in cloth was only a small part of it. Malam explains the procedures in great detail, complete with pictures. After all the essential requirements are met, the body is placed in the coffin, which is then elaborately decorated. There are four acetate overlays included in the book that let the reader see beneath the surface as the body is prepared for its final resting place. A glossary helps with unfamiliar words. Also available in this format is See-Through Pirates.

MUMMIES, by John Malam, Kingfisher, $11.95; ages 8-12.

This book explores mummies throughout history. Malam is a field archeologist and has worked on various sites from many periods. In this book, which includes pictures from several museums, he explains how scientists have learned about past civilizations by digging up and investigating mummies. Modern forensic technology helps scientists figure out a person's cause of death-something that was difficult to discern in ancient times. Each chapter includes Web sites with further information, as well as other books to read and museums where mummies are a featured display. The glossary and index are helpful.

THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF PRESERVED PEOPLE: PICKLED, FROZEN AND MUMMIFIED CORPSES FROM AROUND THE WORLD, by Natalie Jane Prior, illustrated with photographs, Random House, $14.95; ages 8-12.

This book looks not only at preserved bodies but also at what archaeologists, historians, doctors and other experts have been able to learn about the past by studying these people. Humans were not the only living things that were preserved. Many believed that they needed to take their animals with them to the next life. Although Egyptians are most recognized for their mummies, Prior writes about people in Africa, Europe and South America who used similar preservation methods. She devotes a whole section of the book to the techniques and tools used in the process. Besides an index, a glossary of terms is included, as is a list of more books on preserved people.

ANCIENT EGYPT, by Andrew Langley, Silver Dolphin, $16.95; ages 8-12.

Langley presents a fascinating overview of ancient Egypt, enhanced with fine photographs. He divides the book into four areas: Egyptians, their kingdom, growth and rulers; daily life including family, schools and working; the gods, rulers, temples and burials, and, finally, the wars and the decline of the dynasties. The reference section includes a helpful glossary. The time line helps you to understand the whole picture. The book also comes with plastic pieces to put together a replica of the Temple of Ramses III, which can then be displayed on the included board. Other books in the series include Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome.

TREASURE CHEST HIEROGLYPHICS, by Richard Platt, Running Press, $19.95; ages 8-12.

This 32-page book tells the story of the ancient graphic-language symbols of the Middle East, the Far East and Central America. It comes with a variety of activities for children. Kids can build a replica of the Temple of Rameses III (caution here: the pieces are printed cardboard and, although they're colorful, may not prove to be very sturdy). Or they can play Mehen, an ancient game played on a snake's tail board. A collection of hieroglyphic stamps allows children to practice what they've learned by composing their own messages using the ancient symbols.

ARCHERS, ALCHEMISTS, AND 98 OTHER MEDIEVAL JOBS YOU MIGHT HAVE LOVED OR LOATHED, by Priscilla Galloway, art by Martha Newbigging, Annick Press Ltd. $14.95; ages 8-12.

Children are often asked, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" In the Middle Ages, children usually didn't have a choice-they did the work their parents did. Their future was predetermined for them, as was the caste they belonged to-nobles, clergy, specialists or peasants. Children started learning about and working in the family trade very early and didn't have much of a childhood. As for schooling, most children learned only what they needed to know to accomplish their job-and the vast majority were peasants. Along with describing jobs, Galloway presents great background information, all of which is enhanced with the comical art of illustrator Martha Newbigging.

CASTLES & FORTS, by Simon Adams, Kingfisher, $11.95; ages 8-12.

Most social science units include the Middle Ages, and Adams' book talks about castles and forts from this period as well as from other times. While Egyptians were building pyramids, other civilizations were building castles, temples and fortified cities. Forts started as grouped dwellings surrounded by a wall to protect people from wild animal attacks. Later, the walls were made of stone and increased in size to protect the inhabitants from destruction by enemies. As society became more peaceful and stable the castle building stopped. Some of the earlier castles and forts have been restored for us to visit. Web sites are included for further study along with a glossary of terms.


Judy Belanger is a retired elementary learning resource center teacher who lives with her husband in Addison. They have two grown children and four grandchildren. She continues to substitute in grades K-6 in the school where she taught.



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