The Curse of the Tomb Robbers follows Nub, a young scribe in Ancient Egypt, and his friend Iteti as they attempt to stop the looting of Queen Neith’s tomb. Written in a similar style to the Usborne Puzzle Adventure series, this book is published in collaboration with the British Museum.
The story follows a familiar structure: two children overhear a plot to raid a tomb to steal the valuables, they follow the clues, attempt to seek help from adults along the way but ultimately triumph through their quick thinking and bravery. The majority of the puzzles involve code breaking using the fold out hieroglyph guide found at the back of the book, but there are also visual puzzles. There is another nod to Usborne on each page: instead of Find the Duck, the “observation challenge” is to find the scorpion, providing an opportunity to explore the engaging artwork. Each section of the story is colourfully illustrated through detailed drawings with historical references throughout. The story moves through various locations, such as the marketplace, a high-ranking official’s home, the river and the embalming rooms; in each location there are “Did you know?” text boxes which provide relevant information about the history of Ancient Egypt. One note of caution if approaching this with a class: the book deals respectfully but casually with the theme of death throughout and reference is made to loss of parents with no warning or follow up. Additional support may be something to consider depending on pupils’ understanding of cultural death rituals.
Overall, this looks to be a useful book to have on the library shelves for young but fairly confident readers aged 8-10, both for the historical content and for the language skills needed to access the text and the puzzles. A glossary at the end of the story provides additional support for understanding subject-specific words but this and the names used throughout would have benefited from guidance on pronunciation for readers new to the topic. The text is quite small and tightly packed; also, where the background illustration is dark the text is not quite light enough to be read easily, raising questions over its accessibility. For this reason, teachers may wish to consider reading it together using a visualiser, but if so, they will need to heed the book’s instruction to have pen and paper ready and some of the puzzles will need to be prepared in advance.
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