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I imagine dooyoo members could guess which subjects my son is studying based on my reviews. At the moment, we are learning about Egypt, but this book is not just about Egypt, it is about explorers, treasure hunters, and archaeology. It does focus quite a bit on Egypt, but after we learn how to decode hieroglyphs, build a sarcophagus, make our very own mummy, and for the very brave try a meal of mummified foods - we'll head for the Amazon rainforests to make our own shrunken heads as well.
The majority of this book does focus on Egypt, and of course the main selling point is the idea of making your own mummy and sarcophagus. The sarcophagus is very easy to make, you just punch out the very heavy card and slot the pieces together. I only wish they had included two so both boys could have one, but this really does make a lovely pencil box, airplane ( at least according to my youngest), or final resting place for your mummy. This does include an actual photograph of a real dead body, although it is already fairly well wrapped up, so perhaps this book would not be the best for the very squeamish.
Dead bodies however are somewhat hard to come by, and Klutz has not seen fit to include one with this book - so instead we were forced to substitute a hot dog sausage. You will also need, salt, baking soda, toilet paper or masking tape. Sweet smelling spices and markers are optional. Sadly, while hot dogs very well may have brains and guts, they are uniformly blended into the product, so we don't get to try out the nose hook, or pull out the intestines. The rest of this product will take a few weeks at least. You simply cover the sausage in a mixture of baking soda and salt which is meant to be the same as the natron used by Egyptians and begin the curing process. The idea is to remove all the moisture from the hot dog, making it impossible for bacteria to grow. We are only a few days into the process, but the hot dogs are already turning brown and leathery. Once they are finished they will be wrapped in toilet paper or gauze strips. Theoretically, they will keep as long as they stay dry, but this is Belfast and I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if the damp penetrates these eventually and we get an awful smell. I will have to be very certain they are not carried off and lost under a bed!
I do think this is really brilliant, and both boys are really having a good time checking on their mummies each day. I have found the over all dampness in the air turns the mixture to goo though, so we are keeping these in the grill where the heat from the oven and cooker seeps through enough to help keep it dry. I do feel that this gives them a much better idea of how mummification works, as well as bit of information on bacteria as well.
But as much as I liked the mummy making project, the decode a curse section is far and away the most educational aspect of this book. My son has never quite grasped how finding the Rosetta stone allowed archaeologists to break the code of the hieroglyphs, but this shows us exactly how it works. By taking a simple shopping list for Klutz Labs, which we conveniently have in both Ancient Egyptian and modern English, we are able to make our own key which is then used to decode a few curses for keep out sign to go on the child's door, as well as the jokes of a mummy stand up comedian. This alone made the book worth the purchase price, which I believe was just under £6 from Amazon Warehouse deals. The full price is £6.97 which I feel is very fair.
There is a board game as well with a jungle explorer theme. All you need are two markers, coins will do if you don't have anything more exciting to hand. You move backwards and forwards depending on the choices you make. It is fun the first time or two, but does get boring after awhile. There is a museum mix up game as well where you determine which museum would be best for which archaeological find. These include everything from dinosaur poo to Thomas Jefferson's paper airplane, but the game is quickly played with little replay value.
The secret maze is much more fun. You must punch out a paper torch to light your way through a blackened series of subterranean passageways to find the treasure. I was very skeptical of this but it really does work. The maze is printed on a see through plastic sheet which is laid over a black background. You can only see the section of the path which has the white light section of the torch directly underneath. This was a big hit with both boys.
We haven't started the shrunken heads bit yet, but these are simply made of apples and lemon juice with a few extra bits for decoration. We are waiting on our next Tesco delivery to get the lemon juice. It looks like we will need quite a lot. There is also a fun page on how some food is preserved through dehydration, very much like mummification. You'll never look at raisins, anchovies or beef jerky in quite the same way. There are various other facts about jungles, insects at the Shuar people of Ecuador, once famous for head hunting.
The book ends with an invitation to see the world. It suggests that you install the Google Earth Tour plug in or programme and visit their list of interesting places. There is a punch out luggage tag for each location you visit, and a wee postcard souvenir. After these have been used up - you can continue finding interesting places to visit, but you'll have to make your own souvenirs. I would suggest a flags of the world sticker book , placing a sticker on each country you visit, or a world map with a set of stick on stars to mark your travels.
My youngest says he likes this book because you get to make the mummy box and your own mummy. My oldest likes it because it has lots of things to do and it is about real stuff. I've always been very impressed with Klutz books, and this is no different. Books like this really bring learning to life. I feel they would be ideal to entice boys with little interest in reading as there is so much to make and do.
While my youngest did enjoy this book at 4, I do feel a great deal of it went over his head. I would recommend this book for ages 6+, but only with plenty of adult supervision and assistance. I would not consider this book for a child under age 10 without adult involvement, and even then I would have some reservations as a sharp knife must be used for the shrunken head, but these books are really at their best as a family project.
My sons are always very excited to see anew Klutz book in come in the post. My son says if it is Klutz you know it will be good and I do think he is right. As soon as my children see one of these books they immediately start asking "When can we do it - when can we do it" - to the point that if I won't have time to get to the book right away - I hide it. But I think it says something about these these books that they do not ask when can we read it. Of course there is reading involved, but .....