Ancient Egypt is one of the first civilizations you will study if you approach history chronologically or read the Bible chronologically with your family. Ancient Egypt is also a fascinating time period both for children and adults. So you and your kids should enjoy the time you spend learning about it. Here are ten picture books about Ancient Egypt you will love reading with elementary children.
Usborne Time Traveler has been a family favorite right from the beginning of our homeschool years. It is four books in one and covers Egypt, Rome, Knights and Castles, and Vikings. There are bright, cartoonish drawings on pages full of information. My kids between four and eleven loved this book. Even my twelve year old will pull it off the shelf and read it for fun. The focus is on every day life rather than leaders or historical events.
So if there is one book you need on your shelf – this is it! Your kids will love it and it will be more than just a school book. You will read it until your throat is hoarse. The next time your son chooses it you will be begging and pleading with him to pick another book from the shelf. He won’t.
Pyramid by David Macauly. The incredibly detailed black and white illustrations make this book (and every other by Macauly) a classic. The pyramid in the book is an imaginary one, but the text conveys real theories about how the pyramids were built. Read it a few pages at a time and take time to talk with your kids about the building process on each page.
Seeker of Knowledge by James Rumford is the story of Jean-Francois Champollion who first deciphered Egyptian hieroglyphics. The book is set in the early 1800’s, after Napoleon’s army discovered the Rosetta Stone. There are excellent water color illustrations and hieroglyphs through out the text.
Exodus by Brian Wildsmith is a stunning book. Every page is bursting with color and detail. The story line follows Moses from his birth through his death and the Israelites’ entrance into the promised land. The lavish illustrations give you a great sense of the wonder of Ancient Egypt and the pleasures Moses gave up to endure ill-treatment with the people of God (Hebrews 12:24-29). I wish Wildsmith had left out the representation of the presence of God. Other than that, this book will be a great accompaniment to your reading of the real story of the Exodus as you put the Bible into its historical setting.
Mummies Made in Egypt is a classic children’s book about the process of mummification, from embalming the mummy to the funeral procession. Be aware it does include real detail, such as removing the brain through the nostrils with a metal hook. I don’t think it ever bothered any of my kids, but I could see it being an issue for some. The book is intended for children ages 8-12. The attention to detail makes this picture book useful for older kids who are learning about Ancient Egypt. I’m sure I learned a few things about mummies when I read it as an adult.
This book can also serve as a conversation starter about the Christian view of eternal life. Talk to your kids about the promise of eternal life in Christ. The first page reminds us the Egyptians were mummified because their greatest wish was to live forever. Did they believe in the same type of eternal life? (Hint: No!) How was it different? Where do we believe our soul goes when we die? Do we take physical objects from this world with us? This is a complex topic, but you can simplify it and talk about the basics with an eight year old.
Tut’s Mummy Lost and Found by Judy Donnelly is a Step Into Reading Book, so the text is simple. After an initial chapter about the mummification and burial of King Tut, the rest of the book describes Howard Carter’s discovery of the tomb in 1922. The book includes both colored illustrations and black and white photos from the archeological expedition in 1922. After reading it spend some time online looking up the treasures from King Tut’s tomb. Or, even better, go see them in a museum.
Tutankhamen’s Gift by Robert Sabuda is a beautiful book. The story tells of King Tut’s childhood, so much of it is conjecture. It will not overlap at all with Tut’s Mummy Lost and Found; plan to read both of them if you are able. The illustrations are made from cut black paper adhered to papyrus. Astounding! After we read this book, we cut (very simple) Egyptian shapes out of black construction paper and glued them onto a beige piece of paper.
Pepi and the Secret Names by Jill Patton Walsh is a book that we own primarily because it has beautiful illustrations. I love the bold, bright designs in this book. The story reminds me of a fairy tale. Your children will learn very little Egyptian history from it, but I think you’ll enjoy it. At the back there is a hieroglyph chart your kids can use to write notes in secret code to each other.
Pharaoh’s Boat is written and illustrated by David Weitzman. Lots of detail in the colored pencil, pen, and ink drawings. The book tells the tale of Khufu’s ship, built in 2581 BC and discovered beside the Great Pyramid in 1954. The boat was in 1224 pieces. An Egyptian taught himself reconstruction techniques and apprenticed himself to local boat makers, who still used boatmaking skills employed by the ancient Egyptians. Then he put all 1224 pieces back together.
Very young children may be confused by Weitzman’s illustrations that have the modern Egyptologist side by side with ancient workmen. This book would be an excellent companion to Pyramid by Macauly. And don’t forget to look up pictures of the Solar Boat of Pharaoh Khufu.
DK Eyewitness: Ancient Egypt is not technically a “picture” book; it is not fictional or a work of art. But it will provide historical detail that is missing from many of the other books on this list. Like most other DK books expect lots of pictures and not too much text. That makes it great for kids to grab and flip through on their own.
And a bonus, although it’s not a book:
Egyptian papyrus blank paper could provide your kids authentic paper for art and writing projects. Or you can make your own out of brown paper bags. But this will look better.
How many books should you buy?
How many of these books should you read? That’s a silly question. If you can find them at the local library or used book sales, read them all. Then re-read them. When my kids were little we read all these picture books, a reference book about Egypt (such as the DK book listed), and a couple of chapter books that we used as read alouds. All of those combined with a handful of hands-on activities gave us more than enough material for a study of Ancient Egypt. Of course older kids can read these too, just add a few more chapter books so you continue to challenge them.
I decided to list these in the order I would recommend buying them. So if you can only buy one book this year, buy the first. And if you can afford three, buy the first three listed. They are all worth having on your shelf because you can use them over and over, every time you cycle back through ancient history. And your kids will pick them up and read them in the years in between.
To save money, always check the library first. Free is the best choice! Then try homeschool book sales, used book stores, or purchase used books online.
How do we use these books?
We snuggle up on the couch and read them. That’s it. Then we talk about them. We do an art project. Then we complete a few hands on projects. We put a couple of dates on a timeline, if we’re doing one that year. And we read the Bible stories from Genesis and Exodus. It’s so simple and you’ll be amazed by how much your kids remember about Ancient Egypt. And fifteen years later you’ll have precious memories of the time you spent learning alongside your children.