Five years ago this month I reviewed Emma Carroll’s debut novel Frost Hollow Hall for The Bookbag. At the time I said that the ten year old me would have loved the book. Each of her subsequent novels has reminded me why I enjoyed as a child, and continue to enjoy, historical fiction. This latest title, both an exciting adventure and a window to long ago worlds is sure to hook young readers and encourage them to explore history further.
When Lilian Kaye finds a parcel on her grandad’s doorstep, she is shocked to see who sent it: a famous Egyptologist who had been found dead in mysterious circumstances and is the subject of the newspaper headlines that day.
Lil’s Grandad tells her that the mysterious package holds the key to a story. A story of secrets and wrongs that must be put right in order to break the deadly curse. So Lil and her friends, Tulip and Oz embark on an incredible journey – to return the package to its proper resting place, to protect those they love, and to break the deadly pharaoh’s curse.
Tutankhamen’s story has great appeal for both adults and children and Emma Carroll has captured that feeling of mystery and lost youth perfectly. The long lost writings describing the last days of this famous pharoah starkly bring home how young he was and this will undoubtedly add to the appeal to today’s children. The two stories, one in 1920s London and the other in ancient Egypt, have themes that weave the two together in a satisfying whole. Friendship, secrets and efforts to correct past mistakes are part of an exciting and well plotted adventure that moves at a pace sure to keep readers engrossed until the very last page.
Lil is a strong yet very likeable character and both she and Tulip supported by Tulip’s mother and, surprisingly to me, Lil’s father are feminist role models. This is also a book were diversity is recognised in a subtle and at times almost incidental way which, I think, normalises acceptance of differences. A lovely and thoughtful touch. There is mention too of the attitudes of many in 1920s England to other countries and peoples which would prompt interesting discussion and comparison to our world today.
This book has caused an excited buzz among primary school teachers and I can well understand why. It would work brilliantly as a class read linked to Ancient Egyptians. However, it certainly qualifies for a place on primary school library and classroom shelves even if this is not a topic being studied as it is an adventure with heart that can most definitely be enjoyed for its own sake. Emma Carroll, Queen of Historical fiction for children? Yes, I think so!
Secrets of a Sun King is available to purchase at all good bookshops, online or to borrow at your local library.
If you are looking for teaching resources linked to the novel Faber Publishers have some excellent ones free to download on their website
The websites listed below have information on Ancient Egypt presented in a child friendly way. Just click on the images to access the sites…
Finally the excellent Books for Topics website has a list of books, both fiction and non-fiction, related to Ancient Egypt that children will find both interesting and informative.