Here are eight books about Ancient Egypt for older readers. As you are studying ancient civilizations with your little ones, you naturally want to include older children as well. Many of the picture books I included in my post 10 Picture Books About Ancient Egypt have enough substance that upper elementary and junior high school students can learn from them. Let’s be honest, moms learn from them as well! But older children not only need a few facts and dates, they also need reading material that stretches their reading comprehension.
The historical fiction books make great family read alouds with all ages. Pick a couple and enjoy a well-told tale with your children.
Surprisingly, great books about ancient Egypt for school-age children are few and far between. You certainly won’t be spending a full year studying the Egyptian civilization, so include plenty of readings from the Bible and books about other Ancient Civilizations as well.
The Golden Goblet by Eloise Jarvis McGraw was a Newberry Honor winner in 1962. The reading level is grades 6-8. However, as an over-zealous mother of my first kindergartener, I read this book aloud. I still remember quiet afternoons, while the baby was napping, stretched out on the living room floor. We may have read it a bit too early – as I said, I was over-zealous! I did edit unsuitable words as I read, so be aware of that before you start. For the same reason you may want to read this one before you have your older children read it independently; make sure it meets your standards. It’s a fun story about a young boy who wants to become a goldsmith but his scheming older brother stands in his way. A great book for junior high students studying Ancient Egypt.
Mara, Daughter of the Nile is another book by the same author. Mara is a slave who acts as a spy. McGraw is an excellent writer. Although some reviews online question its historical accuracy, we read it anyway. My girls love this book. Appropriate for older readers.
The Cat of Bubastes was written by G.A. Henty in 1889. Expect an old-fashioned writing style, which in my eyes is a definite benefit. Some people like Henty enough to make his books a cornerstone of their history curriculum. Some people (like me) find them too similar and get tired of boy after boy finding himself in the midst of world famous historical events. But you can’t grow tired of the same plotline if you only read one, and this is a good choice. Recommended for grades 3-8.
Tirzah by Lucille Travis is recommended for grades 4-7. This novel tells of a fictional Israelite family participating in the Exodus. In terms of historical fact, you will not learn anything you could not learn from the book of Exodus. In my mind, one of the key reasons to read historical fiction is that the story becomes a vehicle to describe the time period, place, and customs that a history text cannot. You get the “feel” of the time. Tirzah doesn’t do that. There’s very little description of the desert, clothing, or food that will add depth to your imaginings of the Exodus. Still, my kids all loved this book. While I was skeptical throughout the first part of the book, by the end I was feeling the emotional impact of God’s judgment and now I am a fan.
Tales of Ancient Egypt by Roger Lancelyn Green is a book of Egyptian mythology made up of three parts: tales of the gods, tales of magic, and tales of adventure. Roger Lancelyn Green studied under C.S. Lewis and was a member of the Inklings. Isn’t it fascinating to ponder the importance of myth and legend to Lewis, Tolkien, and Green as well? Three of my kids weren’t crazy about this book, but the fourth is a mythology lover and this is his favorite of all these books about Ancient Egypt.
The Riddle of the Rosetta Stone is by James Cross Giblin and written for grades 3-7. I doubt I need to say much more about it. Read the book then plan a quick field trip to the British Museum to see the Rosetta Stone in person. Or read it and just dream of such things.
The Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt by Elizabeth Payne is a reprint of a Landmark book originally published in 1964. Make it your rule to always buy old, hardback Landmark books you see at Goodwill and used bookstores.
The book begins with a chapter about the Rosetta Stone, which may be redundant if you read The Riddle of the Rosetta Stone and Seeker of Knowledge. Next, the book relates that between 25,000 and 10,000 BC the first Egyptians were forced into the Nile valley by climate change. Critical thinking time: how do they know this is true? How does this line up with a Biblical chronology? Then the book tells stories of the first Pharaohs beginning around 3000 BC all the way up through Rameses the Second in about 1294 (according to this book). Even Herodotus makes an appearance. I have read it aloud with younger children and asked older kids to read it by themselves. Again, there may be more up to date information about Ancient Egypt but I would pick this book anyway.
Unwrapping the Pharaohs by John Ashton and David Down attempts to reconcile the Biblical timeline with Egyptian chronology by reworking most of the traditional dates. If you find yourself frustrated by trying to figure out when exactly the Exodus occurred, maybe you will find this helpful. There is a lot of text so this is definitely for older students and adults. The authors have a companion book, Unveiling the Kings of Israel, which I thought was a waste of time. Amazon reminds me that I bought it on June 15, 2013. I read it and got rid of it. But evidently Unwrapping the Pharaohs is still worth its space on the shelf.
What about high school students?
Most of these books are suitable for upper elementary and junior high. A high school student may enjoy one of the fiction books, like Mara, as a fun read. I do not really consider these challenging enough for the high school years. Truthfully, while Egypt figures prominently in the Old Testament, it is not a major player in the rest of Western Civilization and high school students may be better off moving on to study other things. But here are two books to consider:
The Archaeology Study Bible is the best book we bought this year and I highly – highly – recommend it. In the book of Exodus, there are helpful notes about Egyptian gods and possible dates for the Exodus.
Of course, Herodotus wrote about his travels to Egypt and the tales he heard from the priests. My boys loved that section. My daughter wrote me a paper on it titled, “Egypt Day 289.” She is not a fan. Sometimes we endure these great works of Western Civilization no matter how boring they are.