Pepi and the Secret Names Paperback – Mar 2005
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A clever picture book from a well know writer which combines a story with information about Ancient Egypt. Riveting Reads SLA A picture book classic. Times --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Jill Paton Walsh read English at St Anne's College, Oxford, and became a writer at the age of 26. In 1994, her novel Knowledge of Angels was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Jill's many books for children include Fireweed (winner of the Whitbread Prize) and Gaffer Samson's Luck (winner of the Smarties Grand Prix). She lives in Cambridge. To vist Jill Paton Walsh's website click here Fiona French studied Art Education at Croydon College of Art and went on to work as Bridget Riley's assistant. In 1986 she won the Kate Greenaway Medal for Snow White in New York. In 1992 her first book for Frances Lincoln, Anancy and Mr Dry-Bone was shortlisted for the Kate Greenaway Medal and chosen as a Children's Book of the Year. Pepi and the Secret Names (written by Jill Paton Walsh), was one of Child Education's Best Story Books of 1994 and shortlisted for the 1995 Children's Book Award. She is renowned for her distinctively sharp and colourful illustrations. Her other books for Frances Lincoln are Paradise, Bethlehem and Canticle of the Sun; The Smallest Samurai, Glass Garden, Jamil's Clever Cat, Lord of the Animals and Pepi and the Secret Names. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
First the Pro's: The book is beautifully done. The illustrations are marvelous and appealing even to preschoolers. My little kids loved looking at the lion, hawk, crocodile, and cobra which come to speak to Pepi. They also related to the idea of a boy trying to help his father paint these creatures, and thought it was fun every time the creatures showed up for real in the father's temple. They also enjoyed the hieroglyphics and the idea of each animal having a secret name. And of course the running subplot of the tabby cat showing up. It was a good story and the author put a lot of time into telling it. There was nothing objectionable in the account either--no inaccuracies, inappropriate language, or liberal kooky things thrown in there. There wasn't even a lot about the Egyptian gods and polytheism, which is sometimes confusing for the youngest ages. It's just a good story. So I appreciate that.
Also, there is a great hieroglyphics chart on the back page. My second and third graders had a lot of fun using it to write each other messages because the glyphs were big and more well-formed than in some of the charts they'd come across before.
Now the Con's: The main problem is that the book is a good length but not formatted as well as it could be for younger kids. When I first read the book myself, I thought there was no way my younger kids would make it through all the text on each page. They didn't. And the storytelling itself was too far above their level (preschool, kindergarten, first grade). I had to dumb down sentences and skip some things in order for them to keep up with the story. They loved the story, but the text was more suitable for my third grader. Indeed, some curricula recommend this book for 3rd grade and up, but by then they have missed an apt audience in the littlest kids who would enjoy this most!
Secondly, the story is just SLIGHTLY scary. I mean, it is demystified as it goes on, and as you read it again and again, but my littlest ones were slightly intimidated the first time through with the creatures who threaten to hurt Pepi, his father, and the Prince if things don't go their way. I'm not sure they understood the context. If your children are sensitive or if this is their very first introduction to Egyptian literature (as it was for mine), it might help them to understand that these stories can be kind of strong. And that some of the Egyptian gods were represented by these animals--which is unusual for the Judeo-Christian mind. We did a small animal unit after reading this, to get the kids used to the idea of Egyptian animals showing up in the literature--but maybe I should have done this beforehand.
Lastly--and this is just a small thing--there is nothing very educational about the book itself. It doesn't explain the premise of secret names, hieroglyphics, or anything about Egyptian culture. It doesn't even have a moral. After viewing many other Egyptian stories out there, this definitely rose to the top of the list. I was glad we got it but mainly because of the junk it did NOT include rather than anything proactive it did include. I am not bashing the book in any way--it is a nice Egyptian fairy tale--I'm just not exactly sure why it's a staple in some homeschooling curricula.