‘Pharaoh: the boy who conquered the Nile’ is a highly entertaining and well researched book about one of the first Egyptian pharaohs. The Egypt of this book is in a time well before the familiar one of the pyramids, painted tombs and elaborate mummy cases. It is set around 3000 B.C., a much more primitive time when agriculture is only quite recent and the great power of the Middle East is Sumer and the great city of Ur.
We meet Narmer, the younger brother of the King, who is destined to be pharaoh, and is called The Golden One. We already scent trouble when we come across the jealous older brother, who hides his feelings behind a smooth and distant exterior. The town they rule is Thinis, on the banks of the Nile. The residents think that their city is the height of civilisation, but this is their limited vision, and only a visiting trader from Ur will teach Narmer otherwise.
The story gains pace when the visiting trader comes to share his wares and brings with him an unusual and intriguing assistant. This person is always hidden behind many layers of clothing and speaks very softly, but Narmer comes to understand that these layers hide a horrible facial disfigurement. However, Narmer is strangely drawn to this assistant, not knowing that these two people, the trader and his helper, will soon save his life.
Narmer’s jealous older brother, Hawk, tricks him into going hunting for hippo, knowing that a vicious crocodile awaits him. Narmer is terribly damaged and almost killed by the crocodile. He is no longer The Golden One, heir to the throne, and decides to go travelling with the trader and leave his native land.
Jackie French gives a fascinating account of travelling in the ancient near east and living in the city of Ur, cultural centre of the world of its time. The book ends with Narmer, returning with his wife, to his home town with all that he has learned, including bronze tools and irrigation. With these, he is able to unite all the towns of the Nile and begin to build the great nation of Egypt.
This book will be enjoyed by late primary as well as junior high school readers, but also by students of ancient history, for its accurately researched picture of a very little known time in history.