My children and I are studying ancient Egypt right now and I want to record notes about some of the best books we have found on the subject. In learning about ancient Egypt I wanted my children to be able to understand the idea that the history of ancient Egypt spanned a vast amount of time and that things changed over that period of time. I wanted them to think about how the environment of Egypt shaped it and to recognize the names of major cities and rulers. I consider the project a success when they have enough information to make up simple stories about ancient Egypt. So I look in particular for books that give great detail and have engaging stories. I try to steer away from children’s history books that attempt to summarize each of the eras in two pages leaving the children with a confused mess, a vague knowledge that there are different kingdoms but no real way of differentiating between them.
So without further ado, the following are what I found most useful:
Egypt in spectacular cross-section by Steward Ross has nice detailed illustrations and a reasonably simple story-line. This is a good introduction to ancient Egypt. It helped my children pick up on some of the names of places, so when they heard later of places such as Deir el-Medina they recognized it and got excited.
Egyptian diary : the journal of Nakht by Richard Platt is a rather long picture book written as though from the point of view of a young boy training to be a scribe. The book includes an amazing amount of information about daily life with all sorts of historical information woven into the story. I was impressed by its inclusion of little bits of ancient Egyptian literature. The story is set during the time of King Hatshepsut and mentions, among other things, of the expedition to the land of Punt.
Pyramid by David MacAulay is an amazing recounting of how a pyramid is built. The best thing about this book is there is enough detail that children can play at copying some of the techniques. Use a box to model the room in which the sarcophagus is going to be placed and let them fill (with lego or blocks or beans or whatever) and empty it to lower a model sarcophagus in. Draw a picture of the pyramid from the top and color in with four different colors the ramps going up from each corner. Built a plastercine model of the land on which the pyramid will be built and use channels and water to figure out how to make it even.
If you decide to explore building techniques more of them are listed at http://www.cheops-pyramide.ch/khufu-pyramid/pyramid-alignment.html. I think the rope trick is particularly interest! Tying knots equally spaced in a rope is pretty tricky, but an easier way might be to wrap a piece of tape or use a felt to mark the rope.
Engineering an Empire is a television who produced by the History channel. Someone has uploaded it on YouTube. We watched this near the beginning of our “unit” on ancient Egypt and again near the end of it. The show illustrates how the building techniques and skill levels changed over time, highlighting the lives of a few of the pharaohs.
Myths and Legends of Ancient Egypt by Abigail Frost is a good introduction to the different Egyptian deities. My children and I used playmobile to act a few of these stories out. Knowing the story of Isis, Orisis, Horus and Seth in particular is important since the names pop up elsewhere. The book by Richard Platt mentions people saying the reddish water of the Delta as being the blood of Orisis. The Hykos rulers identified with Seth.
Egyptian mythology A to Z : a young reader’s companion by Pat Remler is too dull looking a book to interest my children but they will listening to selected stories cheerfully enough if I read them while they are drawing. I like the book because it moves beyond the most common stories and includes reasonably detailed information on the less common stories.
Ancient Inventions by Peter James and Nick Thorpe is a book that I have enjoyed having as a reference source. Probably one of the best parts of it is an illustration of how the ancient Egyptians door locks worked. I built a model of one out of lego so that my children could see how it worked. The book is not specific to Egypt but the index at the back makes it easy to find pages of interest.
Many homeschoolers use The Story of the World in studying history, and you can find blog posts about their experiences using it and ideas about studying Egypt in particular on this blog link.