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Ancient Egyptian Book List for Middle Grade Readers (ages 9-12)

Every so often I’ll meet a kid who is REALLY into ancient Egypt.

Students generally start learning about ancient world cultures somewhere around 6th grade, as part of a social studies unit. Some classes start a little earlier, around 4th or 5th grade. There’s a lot about ancient Egypt to interest kids– hieroglyphs, pyramids, mummies, mythology, etc.– and some kids get so into it that they develop a lifelong love of everything ancient Egyptian!

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If you missed that phase yourself: The ancient Egyptians were a civilization centered near the Nile River, in what is modern-day Egypt. In book terms, “Ancient Egypt” covers the time period from 3150 B.C.E. to about 30 B.C.E. when Egypt became a province of Rome (aka Cleopatra’s time period).

Ancient Egyptian history and mythology is one of those things that fascinates kids of all ages. Either they’re into the gross stuff (mummification), the historical stuff (Cleopatra, Tutankhamen), the gods and goddesses stuff, the hieroglyphs (secret code!), or a combination of all four!

This reading list covers fiction for kids ages 8-12, as well as some corresponding non-fiction. There’s a good combo of historical fiction (realistic depictions of what life was like in Ancient Egypt), fantasy/adventure books (using Ancient Egyptian setting or mythology), and even some mysteries. Included are rough guidelines for reading levels, as there can be some wide variations even in a general middle grade list.

>> Got younger kids who want to learn about mummies and pyramids? Check out the Ancient Egyptian booklist for juvenile readers (ages 6-10).

Reading List: Fiction

Eye of the Moon by Dianne Hofmeyr. Grades 6-10.
Book summary: ‘Isikara and her father tend the sacred crocodiles and assist at mummifications of both humans and animals. One day, they are ordered to a tomb. Two bodies are waiting for them–Queen Tiy and her eldest son, Tuthmosis. Tuthmosis has been poisoned but is clinging to life. With no time to spare, Isikara rescues the young prince and runs away with him. The pair find themselves on a journey across Egypt, searching for allies who will help Tuthmosis regain his throne. Their travels lead them along the Nile, across the desert, and through bustling market towns. All the while they must avoid their pursuers, the High Priests who wish to silence them. But there are dangers in the desert and all around. Who can they trust? And where will their adventure lead them? ‘
Librarian notes: This might be a good option for older readers who have a slightly lower reading level (aka a hi-low book). Reading level is somewhere around 5th grade, but the interest level is around 7th grade+.

Pharaoh’s Secret by Marissa Moss. Grades 4-8.
Book summary: ‘When Talibah and her younger brother, Adom, accompany their father to Egypt, they become involved in a mystery surrounding an ancient, lost pharaoh—a rare queen ruler. Someone has tried to make it appear as if she never existed! The queen needs Talibah to help her and her high priest, Senenmut, reclaim their rightful place in history. Exotic locales, mysterious strangers, and a sinister archaeologist round out an adventure that is full of riddles, old tales, and, most surprisingly of all, a link to Talibah’s and Adom’s mother, who died mysteriously. ‘
Librarian notes: Marissa Moss is most well-known for her beloved Amelia’s Notebook series, and/or her historical fiction books. This is one of her rare adventure books set in modern times, though it incorporates her historical research.

Reawakened by Colleen Houck. Grades 6+.
Book summary: ‘When seventeen-year-old Lilliana Young enters the Metropolitan Museum of Art one morning during spring break, the last thing she expects to find is a live Egyptian prince with godlike powers, who has been reawakened after a thousand years of mummification. 
And she *really* can’t imagine being chosen to aid him in an epic quest that will lead them across the globe.But fate has taken hold of Lily, and she, along with her sun prince, Amon, must travel to the Valley of the Kings, raise his brothers, and stop an evil, shape-shifting god named Seth from taking over the world.’
Librarian notes: Since the protagonist is 17, this might fit better on a young adult list…but the reading level is somewhere in middle school, so I recommend this for strong readers who are interested in books with older kids.

The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan. Grades 4-8.
Book summary: ‘Since his mother’s death six years ago, Carter Kane has been living out of a suitcase, traveling the globe with his father, the brilliant Egyptologist, Dr. Julius Kane. But while Carter’s been homeschooled, his younger sister, Sadie, has been living with their grandparents in London. Sadie has just what Carter wants—school friends and a chance at a “normal” life. But Carter has just what Sadie longs for—time with their father. After six years of living apart, the siblings have almost nothing in common. Until now.

On Christmas Eve, Sadie and Carter are reunited when their father brings them to the British Museum, with a promise that he’s going to “make things right.” But all does not go according to plan: Carter and Sadie watch as Julius summons a mysterious figure, who quickly banishes their father and causes a fiery explosion.

Soon Carter and Sadie discover that the gods of Ancient Egypt are waking, and the worst of them—Set—has a frightening scheme. To save their father, they must embark on a dangerous journey—a quest that brings them ever closer to the truth about their family and its links to the House of Life, a secret order that has existed since the time of the pharaohs.’
Librarian notes: Rick Riordan is the author of the Percy Jackson & the Olympian series (and sequel series the Heroes of Olympus). This series mixes ancient Egyptian mythology and action/adventure!. It’s perfect for kids who read all of the P.J. books and are looking for something else to read.

The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan. Grades 4-8.
Book summary: ‘Siblings Sadie and Carter Kane discover that the gods of Egypt are waking, and the worst of them–Set–has his sights on them. to Stop him, the duo embarks on a dangerous journey across the globe, one that brings Carter and Sadie ever closer to the truth about their family and its connection to a secret order that has existed since the time of the pharaohs.’
Librarian notes: This is the graphic novel adaptaion of the book, and it’s a great way to introduced reluctant readers to Rick Riordan’s fantastic writing. His books tend to be chunky (in pages), and may scare off kids who aren’t used to reading big books. Comic books are a good way to ease them into it, and I bet they’ll love it so much they’ll want to give the original book a chance, too!

Cleopatra Confesses by Carolyn Meyer. Grades 6+.
Book summary: ‘It is the first century B.C. Cleopatra, the third of the pharaoh’s six children, is the one that her father has chosen to be the next queen of Egypt. But when King Ptolemy is forced into exile, Cleopatra is left alone to fend for herself in a palace rife with intrigue and murder. Smart, courageous, ambitious and sensuously beautiful, she possesses the charm to cause two of history’s most famous leaders to fall in love with her. But as her cruel sisters plot to steal the throne, Cleopatra realizes there is only one person on whom she can rely–herself.’

Cleopatra VII: Daughter of the Nile by Kristiana Gregory. Grades 4-8.
Book summary: ‘Written in a diary-style format, this work presents the experiences and feelings of the young queen-to-be while providing informative facts about her homelife, family and royal environment.’
Librarian notes: The Dear America/Royal Diaries series were staples in my childhood library collection and luckily they’ve come back into print in time for the newest generation to read and enjoy. Diary-format books are great for kids who get bored with long chapter books– the individual journal entries move quickly, so there’s no time to get bored.

Lights on the Nile by Donna Jo Napoli. Grades 4-8.
Book summary: ‘Kepi is a young girl in ancient Egypt, content to stay home with her family, helping her father, who was wounded in the construction of a pyramid for the cruel pharaoh Khufu. But that was before she and her pet baboon, Babu, were kidnapped and held captive on a boat bound for the capital city, Ineb Hedj. And when Kepi and Babu are separated, she knows she has only one choice: to make her way to the capital on her own, rescue Babu, and find a way to appeal to the pharaoh. Khufu is rich and powerful, but Kepi has her own powers, deep inside her—ones she herself doesn’t even know about yet.’

Lost Queen of Egypt by Lucile Morrison. Grades 6+.
Book summary: ‘In the city of Akhetaten lived a princess, Ankhsenpaaten (later Ankhsenamon), who grew up in the royal household, one of six daughters of King Ahkenaten and Queen Nefertiti. We come to know and love this girl, called Small Bird by her family, through the events of her colorful childhood and her marriage to Tutankhaten, a boy of royal birth. Her efforts to save the kingdom from conniving priests and soldiers were gallant and dramatic.’

Mara, Daughter of the Nile by Eloise Jarvis McGraw. Grades 4-8.
Book summary: ‘Mara is a proud and beautiful slave girl who yearns for freedom. In order to gain it, she finds herself playing the dangerous role of double spy for two arch enemies—each of whom supports a contender for the throne of Egypt.

Against her will, Mara finds herself falling in love with one of her masters, the noble Sheftu, and she starts to believe in his plans of restoring Thutmose III to the throne. But just when Mara is ready to offer Sheftu her help and her heart, her duplicity is discovered, and a battle ensues in which both Mara’s life and the fate of Egypt are at stake.’
Librarian notes: A classic children’s book that tends to get overlooked because it’s “old.” Still pretty fun to read, though!

Orphan of the Sun by Gill Harvey. Grades 4-8.
Book summary: ‘Thirteen-year-old orphan, Meryt-Re, lives with her uncle’s family in the ancient Egyptian village of Set Maat, the home of the pharaohs’ tomb-builders. Under pressure to marry Ramose, a dull, plodding stonecutter, she resists, and begs for guidance from the gods, but she’s unable to decipher the message behind her vivid dreams. When her cousin falls gravely ill, her uncle accuses her of turning the gods against him and banishes her from the house. Meanwhile, Meryt discovers other strange and suspicious activities going on in the village: Why is Userkaf, a boisterous draughtsman, trying to cause trouble by making accusations against one of the foremen And why is his servant girl stealing precious and holy gold amulets from the embalmers Meryt’s worried too, that her aunt Tia seems to think that her father has not gone peacefully to the Next World, and when she discovers Tia is not the only other person to have been making offerings to him in his tomb, she is even more puzzled. It is not until she meets Teti, the village wise woman, that Meryt can begin to unravel the meaning of her dreams and in so doing, solve the mysteries surrounding her. ‘

Sphinx’s Princess by Esther Friesner. Grades 4-8.
Book summary: ‘Although Nefertiti is the dutiful daughter of a commoner, her inquisitive mind often gets her into situations that are far from ordinary, like receiving secret lessons from a scribe. And her striking beauty garners attention that she’d just as soon avoid, especially when it’s her aunt, the manipulative Queen Tiye, who has set her sights on Nefertiti. The queen wants to use her niece as a pawn in her quest for power, so Nefertiti must leave her beloved family and enter a life filled with courtly intrigue and danger. But her spirit and mind will not rest as she continues to challenge herself and the boundaries of ancient Egyptian society. With control of a kingdom at stake and threats at every turn, Nefertiti is forced to make choices and stand up for her beliefs in ways she never imagined.’

The Golden Goblet by Eloise Jarvis McGraw. Grades 4-8.
Book summary: ‘Ranofer wants only one thing in the world: to be a master goldsmith like his beloved father was. But how can he when he is all but imprisoned by his evil half brother, Gebu? Ranofer knows the only way he can escape Gebu’s abuse is by changing his destiny. But can a poor boy with no skills survive on the cutthroat streets of ancient Thebes? Then Ranofer finds a priceless golden goblet in Gebu’s room and he knows his luck−and his destiny−are about to change.’ Award: Newbery Honor

Wadjet Eye by Jill Rubalcaba. Grades 5-7.
Book summary: ‘Damon’s medical training under the Pharaoh’s own physician didn’t prepare him for his mother’s last illness–or for the adventure that follows. Damon must travel from Alexandria all the way to Spain, where his father is fighting in Caesar’s army, to deliver the news of his mother’s death to the father he hardly knows. Soon the quiet, studious Damon and his best friend, the soldierly Artemas, are caught up in danger and intrigue–from shipwreck and shark attack to the political maneuverings of Cleopatra, Cicero, and Caesar. ‘

Lost Scroll of the Physician by Alisha Sevigny. Grades 4-8.
Book summary: ‘Sesha, the daughter of the pharaoh’s royal physician, must find the precious scroll her father was transcribing before his death, not only to save the kingdom, but to also save her brother’s life. ‘

The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder. Grades 4-8.
Book summary: ‘The first time Melanie Ross meets April Hall, she’s not sure they have anything in common. But she soon discovers that they both love anything to do with ancient Egypt. When they stumble upon a deserted storage yard, Melanie and April decide it’s the perfect spot for the Egypt Game. Before long there are six Egyptians, and they all meet to wear costumes, hold ceremonies, and work on their secret code. Everyone thinks it’s just a game until strange things start happening. Has the Egypt Game gone too far?’
Librarian notes: This isn’t strictly an “Ancient Egyptian” book as it’s set in America in (what was then) modern times. However, the characters act out Egyptian myths and form friendships based around their common interest in ancient Egypt. Also, it’s what kickstarted my own interest in Ancient Egyptian stuff as a kid! I had to include it here just for the nostalgia.

Reading List: Non-Fiction

Ancient Egypt by DKFindout. Grades 4-8.
Book summary: ‘Travel back in time with this fun book on Ancient Egypt for children. Learn all about the pharaohs of Egypt, decode Egyptian hieroglyphs, and see how the Great Pyramid of Giza was built. Packed with fun facts, amazing pictures, and quizzes, this book is a great introduction to the world of the Egyptians.’
Librarian notes: DK books are a great intro to complicated historical information. The combo of text and images organized in easy-to-read slices makes history super easy to understand. They tend to be favorites among students, too!

Anubis Speaks!: A Guide to the Afterlife by the Egyptian God of the Dead by Vicky Alvear Shecter. Grades 4-8.
Book summary: ‘Who better than Anubis, the jackal-headed god of mummification, to serve as a guide through the dreaded Land of the Dead? In this fresh and imaginative approach to nonfiction, the first title in the Secrets of the Ancient Gods series, Anubis steers the reader through the Egyptian dark lands. Along the way, they meet fearsome gods and gruesome monsters. And they witness the battle of the gods against Apophis, the giant demon-snake trying to devour the world. With ghoulish humor and lots of attitude (he is a god, after all), Anubis introduces readers to ancient Egyptian beliefs and rituals—including the secrets of mummification—with panache and, if he does say so himself, drop-dead humor. Includes glossary, bibliography, and index.’
Librarian notes: Donna Jo Napoli also wrote some “Lights on the Nile,” a fiction book listed above. (She’s also an amazing Young Adult author.)

Treasury of Egyptian Mythology: Classic Stories of Gods, Goddesses, Monsters & Mortals by Donna Jo Napoli. Grades 4-8.
Book summary: ‘The new National Geographic Treasury of Egyptian Mythology is a stunning tableau of Egyptian myths, including those of pharaohs, queens, the boisterous Sun God Ra, and legendary creatures like the Sphinx. The lyrical storytelling of award-winning author Donna Jo Napoli dramatizes the timeless tales of ancient Egypt in the year when Angelina Jolie will make Cleopatra a multimedia star. And just like the popular National Geographic Treasury of Greek Mythology, the stories in this book will be beautifully illustrated to bring ancient characters vividly to life. The stories are embellished with sidebars that provide historical, cultural, and geographic context and a mapping feature that adds to the fun and fascination. Resource notes and ample back matter direct readers to discover more about ancient Egypt. With its attractive design and beautiful narrative, this accessible treasury stands out from all other mythology titles in the marketplace.’

Great Ancient Egypt Projects: You Can Build Yourself by Carmella Van Vleet. Grades 4-6.
Book summary: ‘From reed boats, papyrus, and amulets, to pyramids, pharaohs, and mummies, Great Ancient Egypt Projects You Can Build Yourself explores the fascinating lives of ancient Egyptians through more than 25 hands-on building projects and activities.’
Librarian notes: Need science fair project inspiration? Why not go the Ancient Egyptian route?

>> If they’ve read all of these and still want more, or if they want to start reading more detailed informational books, the Ancient Egyptian reading list for young adults (ages 13-18) has what you need.

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