Friday, July 09, 2010

Human Time Machines: Mummies by Elizabeth Carney

A farmer is working in swampy land. His shovel hits something hard. He uncovers a blackened body.

It has hair, teeth, even fingerprints. The farmer calls the police. It looks like the person died recently.

But the body is over two thousand years old! It's a mummy!

Kids find mummies fascinating. Some are attracted by the temptation to gross out their friends with frightful photos. Some love the folklore and fantasy of mummies, familiar fearful figures of fiction and film. Some history buffs are drawn to the glimpse into distant cultures found in burial artifacts. Some are just mystified at the thought of looking into the faces of their fellow humans who lived hundreds or thousands of years ago.

Elizabeth Carney's Mummies (National Geographic Readers Series, Level2) (National Geographic Society, 2010) offers beginning readers an intriguing look at all of these possibilities. Loaded with up-close photographs of both nature-made and human-made mummies, this easy-to-read book explains how natural mummies are formed in very cold or dry locales or in bogs which contain bacteria-inhibiting mosses, as well as how man-made mummies were preserved by the Egyptians, Chinese, and the native American Chinchorros. The author also explains what scientists can learn from the diet, bones, hair, and clothing of mummies and how these findings add to our historical understanding of human life.

Famous mummies are featured--King Tutankhamen in Egypt, The "bogmen" Graubelle Man and Tolland Man, Lady Dai, Otzie, the murdered Alpine man found in 1991, and the perfectly preserved head of famed English scientist Jeremy Bentham who died in 1832. There are also photos of mummified cats, birds, and crocodiles, as well as some of the treasures found with royal mummies. An appendix includes a photo glossary of terms introduced and defined in the text.

With a cover photo of an arresting peek-a-boo mummy, this is a book few kids will be able to ignore. As the author puts it...

Mummies can't talk. But they can still tell us many secrets about the past.

In a way, mummies are like time machines. They give us a peek into the past.

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  • My two girls, ages 7 & 10, read this book just yesterday. They kept having to read parts out loud to me because they thought it was so gross and interesting. I can't wait to recommend it to my students in the fall.

    By Anonymous Jennifer S., at 8:53 AM  

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