The 5000-Year-Old Puzzle (Review)
Updated: Nov 21
Author: Claudia Logan
Illustrator: Melissa Sweet
Publisher: Melanie Kroupa Books, 2002
Interest Level: Ages 8 and up
Reading Level: Grades 3 - 5; Lexile 900L
Retail: $18.99, hardcover
Summary: A fictional boy in 1924 joins his family on an archaeological dig in Egypt based on a real tomb numbered Giza 7000X. He learns about how sites are found and documented, and tries to help explain the unusual circumstances of the find.
I would have loved this book as a child. After visiting the King Tut exhibit in San Francisco and the Rosicrucian Museum in San Jose, I decided I would try to decipher hieroglyphics on my own at the age of 8. Later, in college, I took two semesters of Ancient Egyptian language to fulfill the dream. There is no doubt that learning about Egyptian archaeology was important in my life, and it probably planted the seeds for many others who entered the profession, even if we didn't end up travelling so far.
The 5,000-Year-Old-Puzzle is based on an actual archaeological dig, and it shows how the finds might have been viewed by a child. The text can be read aloud, but it also allows for independent discovery. Advanced vocabulary words stretch readers to learn. The acrylic and watercolor illustrations include maps, reproductions of newspaper articles and real artifact cataloging forms. The main character writes postcards to a friend back home to chronicle his experience, providing a first-person perspective. In the end, the mystery is not entirely solved, and the reader is invited to try to evaluate different explanations. End notes compare the tools used in 1924 to current methods of mapping and digging.
The author of the book, Claudio Logan, is a former museum educator, and her insights on how to best present archaeology to children are apparent. Illustrator Melissa Sweet based her illustrations on a trip to Giza and research on museum collections. Their work is satisfyingly authentic.
I regret to report that this book is becoming harder to find. Grab a copy where you can (check my store for availability). There are a few new copies in bookshops and warehouses, and they are well worth seeking out. Adults, don't be surprised if you find yourself sneaking a read of the book on your own. It is sure to appeal to your inner child.
This title may be purchased at the I Dig Books Store