In keeping with my ‘bargain bin’ reviews (see previous one of Tyrannosaurus Drip), this one features Philip Yates and G. Brian Karas’ Ten Little Mummies: An Egyptian Counting Book (2003).
While the idea of a hieroglyphic counting book is beguiling, and this was my first thought about its contents, this book is a standard 1-10 counting book, but with a great twist on typical children’s themes.
The number of farmyard, vehicle, jungle or housey counting books is huge. We’ve been through so many of this type from the library, and ditto to styles of alphabet books.
Having a book that is clever and playful, with a satisfying rhyming rhythm and endearing images is a real bonus.
The pun-filled book (the best kind!) focuses on the misadventures of ten little mummies who just want to get out and have a good time.
Here’s an excerpt:
Deep underground in a dreary old tomb
10 little mummies were stuffed in one room.
Nothing to play with, no books on the shelves,
Just 10 little mummies wrapped up in themselves.
“This is the pits!” said a mummy one day. “I am bored stiff. Let’s go outside and play!
Of course, seeking a little fun just leads to disaster, whether it’s riding off on hippos, being kidnapped by baboons, or some shameful unravelling.
It’s ok, though, because there’s a happy ending.
The kids loved this book, but it’s definitely one that I love even more than they do. They were too young to appreciate the tomb-oriented riddles included in the book.
Yates is known more for his gigantic joke books (co-authored most often with Matt Rissinger), and this his only other children’s picture book is A Pirate’s Night before Christmas (illustrated by Sebastia Serra; 2010).
This fabulous 2005 interview with Yates by Cynthia Leitich Smith provides some excellent insight into this book, and about publishing processes in general. This book’s journey from idea to story to publication was seven years, with over 40 publishers’ rejections. Several years were also given over to rewriting it to the editor’s preferences (i.e. to use ancient Egyptian backdrops rather than the contemporary ones that Yates had initially envisaged).
Yates comments on making the changes to the setting:
“The story truly came together then, though it was only 250 words long. But to get to that moment took four years and sometimes spending as much as a month on two lines!”
That’s dedication to a project.
It was such a long time before he could say, “It’s a wrap!”.
And while I’m here, I should point you to the “Top 50 Books for children (5 and under)” column by Lorna Bradbury (in the Telegraph; Feb 2012),which I’ve only just discovered.
Do you agree? The comments are actually worth reading!