THE CURSE OF THE MUMMY (Cybils 2021)

Making a Cybils shortlist is going to be a tough task this year! Today I’m looking at THE CURSE OF THE MUMMY: Uncovering Tutankhamun’s Tomb by Candace Fleming.

In the early 20th century (the late afternoon of the British Empire) all the world became obsessed with ancient Egyptian mummies; this is the story of rich white aristocrats’ quests to find and dismantle the tomb of 18-year-old King Tut.

Ethically-questionable museum exhibits; the beginning of the end of colonialism, and a mummy’s curse that can’t quite be scientifically disproven, ensue.

Loved

  • First and foremost, Fleming tells the story in a respectful manner toward the departed Pharaohs, ancient Egyptians’ spiritual beliefs, and the Egyptian people of past and present.
  • While the book is told in a narrative style that takes some creative/poetic license, text is heavily studded with photographs that will fascinate middle-grade readers.
    • This book is obviously well-researched from a scientific, sociological, and historical perspective, and yet manages not to be didactic.
  • Solid and simple-enough explanations of the uncertainty of both science and hisstory

Either really cool or a caveat, depending on your point of view

  • Parts of this book are spooky AF. Fleming’s research went to extensive lengths to try to explain the “alleged” mummy’s curse… even a century later, top scientists can’t quite provide a logical explanation for the deaths and misfortune that followed some of the “Egyptologists”.
    • Hey, sorry, but if you don’t have a PhD in ancient Egypt (most of the explorers didn’t even have a Bachelors), your title gets put in quotation marks.

Caveat

  • While a necessary and factual discussion, the rampant racism and disrespect the British had toward the Egyptians (this book is basically an account of a fifteen-year grave desecration) may be upsetting to kids who have experienced racism.

Verdict

The mummy genre is possibly overdone (thank you, mid-century B-grade horror movies), but this book truly is excellent, introducing kids to ethical and sociological concepts in an age-appropriate manner… and sandwiched around cursed mummies, so in a way that will hold attention.

If you can’t decide which of the 500 Middle Grade books on Ancient Egypt you need, go for this one.

THE CURSE OF THE MUMMY may be non-fiction, but it earns a solid place on the #SpookyMG shelf.

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