Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Mummy Makers of Egypt written and illustrated by Tamara Bower

We don't tend to take mummy's very seriously nowadays, especially not since they have become the stuff of Halloween and horror movies, but in ancient Egypt, mummifying the body of a deceased person of high stature was not only a very serious business, but also a surprisingly complicated and lengthy process.

In her newest book about ancient Egypt, Tamara Bower introduces readers to the embalmers of the Egyptian royal house, Paneb, the "Overseer of Mysteries" and his son Ipy.  Paneb's job was to care for the bodies of Egypt's royal family after they passed away and to "preserve them for eternity.  Ipy was being formally trained to someday take over his father's job.

To help readers understand the embalming process, Bower takes them through the procedure step by step, beginning with the death of Yuya.  Yuya was a nobleman, a respected official and the father of Queen Tiye, and the great grandfather of King Tut.  As Paneb and Ipy begin the embalming process on Yuya body, each stage in the procedure is carefully explained in detail that includes not just what and why certain things are done to the body, but also the religious beliefs and rituals associated with death.  For example, the heart, not the brain, was considered to be the center of intelligence and the house of the soul, so it was to be protected and not to be disturbed while the lungs were removed.  Organs removed from the body were carefully dried and put into jars to accompany the deceased into the afterlife.  Nothing was simply discarded.

Each page of The Mummy Makers of Egypt with beautifully illustrated, done very much in the classic style of ancient Egyptian art, and includes hieroglyphics with translation, examples of the tools used by the embalmers, artifacts of what the deceased would need in the afterlife.  Most of the illustrations run along the bottom of each page, and rather than include explanations of who is who and what is what, Bower simply puts the persons name or occupation in them.  This makes for a lot of white space above and enables the reader to focus more closely on what is being described on each page (click image to enlarge):

Pages 6  and 7- In the court of Osiris, god of the afterlife and judge of the dead, Yuya's heart is
weighed to see if it is light as a feather, or heavy with evil.
If Yuya's heart is light as a feather, he is welcomed into the
Fields of the Blessed.
The back matter for The Mummy Makers of Egypt consists of a map, a Note About the Story by Bower, suggestions for Further Reading, and Yuya's Family Tree.  There are also photographs of the Yuya and his wife taken after their tomb was discovered in 1905 in almost pristine condition.  The tomb had been plundered, but not completely and yielded much information about ancient Egypt.

I have to be honest and say that beyond going through the ancient Egyptian exhibits at museums, I never had a great deal of interest in mummies, but after reading The Mummy Makers of Egypt, my interest is peaked.  I had no idea what went into the embalming process, but I did know that it was kept secret by the embalmers, and passed down verbally to keep it that way.  To this day, the whole process remains a mystery.

The Mummy Makers of Egypt is sure to please young readers, especially those interested in Egyptology, archaeology, and science.

This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was purchased for my personal library

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge is a weekly celebration of 
nonfiction books hosted by Alyson Beecher at Kid Lit Frenzy


  1. Our science and nature museum had an extensive exhibit about mummies a few years ago, most interesting. Thanks for sharing this book. I know it would be interesting to many students studying Egypt.

  2. Oh wow, I would've loved this book when I was a kid, I was so fascinated by ancient Egypt and its mysteries. I like the ancient Egyptian style of the illustrations, too - it fits in so well with the text.

  3. Definitely one I'll check out - thanks for including the page shots, I was wondering age level this would be appropriate for. I know there will be some readers out there for this book!

  4. My son would have loved this in elementary school, like many kids, he found all things Egyptian so interesting. Looks great.

  5. I'm going to share this with our 6th grade world history teachers because this is one of the students' favorite units, and this book looks like it would be a great addition to it.

  6. I love your samples of the art!

  7. Have you read Mummy Cat by Ewert? It would definitely be one to read with this.


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