A starting-school story set in the Egyptian New Kingdom (c. 1550-1070 B.C.E.).
“A fisherman’s life is the best life of all,” but for young Khepri, son of a fisherman, life is about to change. On this morning, he rises early with his father for a journey across the Nile to begin school, where he will learn to be a scribe. The first-person point of view is perfect for conveying, in vivid, sensuous prose, Khepri’s feelings and descriptions of the town, river, and bustling city of Thebes. Comport’s illustrations—digitally created with pastels and acrylic paint—are inspired by traditional decorative textiles and patterns and are beautifully presented in double-page spreads. Oddly, though, the poetic narrative abruptly ends as Khepri is about to enter the gates of the school. A densely printed, one-page backmatter section titled “Writing in Ancient Egypt” concludes the story, but it makes the book feel out of balance. Though it was unusual for the son of a fisherman to attend school in Khepri’s time, his story evokes the same excitement and fear that many schoolchildren experience when starting a new year, so the withholding of the in-school experience from the main narrative is a disappointment.
A beautiful, flawed story that rings true even if set thousands of years ago. (historical note, bibliography, author’s note, illustrator’s note, glossary) (Picture book. 6-9)