Wacky Wednesday: Explore Egypt with Fiona Ingram
November 18, 2009 in Books With Social Studies Content, Creative Writing activities, Elementary Educators, Ingram Fiona, Middle Grade Novel, Research Ideas, Wacky Wednesday, Writing Skills Tags: Book Giveaway Contest, Books about Egypt, Books With Social Studies Content, Fiona Ingram, middle grade mystery, mysteries for kids, The Secret f the Sacred Scarab
What could be better than two boys and an adventure in Egypt? It’s hard to think of anything! So, join me today with Fiona Ingram while she visits my blog on her WOW! Women On Writing blog tour to talk about her middle-grade novel, The Secret of the Sacred Scarab.
**BOOK GIVEAWAY CONTEST: Please leave a comment or question for Fiona about her book, Egypt, or any of the resources she has for us here. If you are a teacher, home school parent, or librarian, you can use all of Fiona’s information and her book to teach your students and children about Egypt.
The Secret of the Sacred Scarab:
A thrilling adventure for two young boys whose fun trip to Egypt turns into a dangerously exciting quest to uncover an ancient and mysterious secret. A 5000-year-old mystery comes to life when a scruffy peddler gives Adam and Justin Sinclair an old Egyptian scarab on their very first day in Egypt. Justin and Adam embark upon the adventure of a lifetime, taking them down the Nile and across the harsh desert in their search for the legendary tomb of the Scarab King, an ancient Egyptian ruler. With just their wits, courage, and each other, the boys manage to survive. . .only to find that the end of one journey is the beginning of another!
A special treat! An interview with the author:
Margo: Hi Fiona! Welcome to Read These Books and Use Them! Where did you get the idea for The Secret of the Sacred Scarab?
Fiona: Believe it or not, but a family trip to Egypt with my mom and my two nephews inspired the book. We had a wonderful time, filled with exciting and memorable events. And on our return, I decided to do something different. I decided to write my nephews a short story to keep as a souvenir of our holiday. Pretty soon, that short story just ran away with me and turned into a book; and by the end of the book, I knew there was still a lot of story to complete. So, here I am with a book series facing me.
Margo: But how exciting that you have so much to say! How long did you research this book since it is set in Egypt? What are a couple of your favorite research methods?
Fiona: I am a journalist so I tend to “collect” things on any trip—souvenirs, postcards, museum tickets, air tickets, post cards, book marks, and guide books. These act as triggers for my memory. I also scribbled down things on the Egypt trip. Then of course, the real experiences of the place are important—the heat, the people, the customs, the different clothes, the monuments, the endless waves of desert sand, the blinding sunlight. . . Back home, I structured my story and then did solid book research on the places and historical things that would play a part in the unfolding of the plot. I tend to plot the whole story, then create my chapter points, then look up all the information I will need in each chapter. I always do a final “fact check” before completing a chapter. The entire project took about three years from start to finish, from starting the manuscript to finally getting it published.
Margo: Thank you for sharing your process with us. If anyone reading this post is a children’s writer or aspiring to be one, your answer could help them on their journey! What are some challenges of writing a mystery for kids?
Fiona: Kids love a mystery, but one cannot make it so complex they become confused or frustrated. The plot should be riveting but not too convoluted. Personally, I feel that kids love a mental challenge, and one should strive to get them thinking along with the heroes as they unravel the story’s events. I think I was fortunate that I chose such an interesting location (or did it choose me?) because anything set in an exotic place automatically brings an aura of mystique. Ancient secrets waiting to be revealed, codes that need to be cracked, the danger posed by villains and their ruthless henchmen. Those elements in themselves create the kind of atmosphere that kids love. I think the hardest part is to enable kids to work it out but not work it out too soon. There must be an element of surprise, a wonderful twist in the tale that gets them thinking.
Margo: So true! Mysteries are not easy to write; but when they are good–kids love them! Please share with us a few activities/lesson plans that teachers, librarians, and/or home school parents can do with children.
Fiona: Egypt is just the most wonderful topic because its history dates back so far. There is an absolute wealth of fantastic information that should keep kids glued to the subject. I have included a good book list with activities and some of the best websites (see after the interview for e-mail address for these lists), but here are some excellent suggestions for a hands-on approach. (All these questions can be answered by using the book’s website, filled with information, photos, and a great glossary of all things relating to Egypt.)
The Egyptian Empire was one of the world’s greatest civilizations and survived for more than 3,000 years. Ask learners to research the rise and fall (by foreign conquest) of this empire and make an Ancient Egyptian timeline. (Hint: www.secretofthesacredscarab.com has an excellent History of Ancient Egypt on its front page. Have some fun finding the link that opens up this source of information. Click on the scarab image on the Home page).
Geography: using books or the Internet, look up the words “map” and “Ancient Egypt.”
Research the vital role the Nile River played in the lives of Ancient Egyptians—why was this river so important? (Hint: agriculture, flooding, irrigation and cultivation.) What recent event has caused a change in the flow pattern of the river? (Hint: Aswan, dam, effects of controlled water flow.) What kind of terrain surrounded Ancient Egypt? (Hint: Sea? Land? Desert?) Name some of the great cities of Ancient Egypt. There is one that shares the same name as a city in the USA. (Hint: There is also a wonderful map on the button marked The Journey that’ll help you with finding cities and places. Travel with Justin and Adam down the Nile!)
Famous Egyptians: Find out why these ancient figures were so important.
Imhotep (Hint: he was the architect who designed the step pyramids)
Menes (Hint: he was the king who established the city of Memphis and the First Dynasty)
Nefertiti (Hint: a beautiful woman)
Tutankhamun (Hint: he was nine when he became pharaoh and is the best-known of all the pharaohs—why?)
Famous Monuments and Places: look up these famous sites and find out who built them, and why.
The Great Pyramid
The Valley of the Kings
The Temple of Karnak
Deir el Bahari
Using hieroglyphics, children can really enjoy writing their own names using a hieroglyphics translator. They could even write a message from an Ancient Egyptian king to someone important, giving him a special instruction. Or else a poem, praising the king. In The Secret of the Sacred Scarab, heroes Justin and Adam have to translate some ancient hieroglyphics, so they can crack the secret code and discover the meaning of the sacred scarab.
A Hands-on Project – Create your own Egypt Tourist Guide Book.
This is great fun! You’ll need lots of paper, pens, pencils, coloring crayons or pastels, some books on Egypt, or access to the Internet. Divide the class into teams, giving each group a topic. They should then research their topic, either in books or on the Internet, print out or draw images, write up their information, and finally put together their own guide book. You’ll need to appoint someone as a class coordinator (editor) to check all the teams are doing it right. Use a harder cardboard for the cover, which should really be beautifully decorated in the most eye-catching way. Don’t forget to include a map of Egypt for tourists who have never been to Egypt. Contents: history, geography, archaeology, mythology, mummification, travel, culture, animals, language, monuments, tombs & pyramids, hieroglyphics, kings and queens … the topics are endless. What is exciting is allowing students to tackle this on their own (with some guidance!) and let their own creativity flourish.
A Hands-on Project – Create Your Own Pharaonic Death Masks
Books and the Internet contain plenty of images of possibly the most famous Pharaonic death mask–that of the boy king Tutankhamun. This can easily be recreated with papier-mâché, water-based paints and some creativity. You can use a ball or round object to make the framework for the mask. Don’t forget that Ancient Egyptians loved bright colors, especially turquoise, yellow, red, and blue. Remember, you’ll be recreating the gold, gems, and other precious stones and metals that were used to decorate the death masks, so get painting!
Margo: WOW! Fiona–thank you so much for showing us how to USE your book! Readers, don’t forget to leave comments or questions below for a chance to win a copy of this book! By the way, Fiona just learned that The Secret of the Sacred Scarab was nominated a Finalist in the Children’s Fiction section of the USA National Best Books 2009 Awards. It got the same nomination earlier this year in the New Generation 2009 Indie Book Awards. Congratulations to Fiona!
If you are interested in an Egypt book list or website list, please e-mail me at margodll (at) aol.com and put Egypt book list in the subject line! Thanks!