Setting: Thirteenth century B.C., Egypt under the rule of Pharoah Ramses II, New Kingdom, 19th Dynasty.
Main Character: Senmut, the nine year old son of the sculptor, Yuf.
Themes: hardship, suffering, luck, perseverance.
This seventy-five page historical novel is short but full of pain and suspense. Senmut is only nine years old (I kept reminding myself of his age throughout the story) when he is sentenced to hard labor in the gold mines of Nubia for a “crime” that was essentially an accident. It’s unfair and horrible, and I think that although the reading level of the book is fourth or fifth grade, the content is pitched at young adult readers.
I got a picture of ancient Egypt as a place that might be nice to visit, if I could successfully avoid breaking any of the many superstitious taboos that ruled the lives of the Egyptians, but it wouldn’t be a “place in the sun” that I’d want to call home. Senmut survives his ordeal and becomes something more than a slave in ther gold mines, but his escape and his success are really due to luck, or the favor of the gods, more than anything else.
I think this one would be a great choice to go with our ancient history study to show students that ancient Egypt wasn’t all Pharoahs and pyramids, that lots of common people suffered and died under the rule of some dictatorial rulers who thought they were gods and yet were afraid of the gods whose images they both worshipped and emulated.