“ Paperback: 32 pages / Publisher: Oxford University Press / Published: 1 July 1998 „
and considering the fact the nasty pongs were the sole reason I bought this book - that is a bad thing. Now you might not want to know exactly how a mouldering mummy smells, or why the smell of the pharaohs feet turned his servants green, or if cats grease and gazelle dung really smelt bad enough to drive rats away - but we honestly did wish to discover all of these things. As far as my sons are concerned - the stinkier the better and if the smell was really as bad as one might hope, this would have quickly proved the most popular book in our collection. Of course there are some more mundane scents in this book roses, frankincense, but it was the promise of stinky ones that led us to buy this book. What better way to learn about history and really feel it come to life then to be able to experience first hand the rich and pungent pongs of days gone by?
Smelly Old History - Mouldy Mummies is a pretty basic children's history book about ancient Egypt with more than a nod to Terry Deary's Horrible History series. It has a rather delightful poem which my sons both enjoyed at the beginning of the book - with lines like "They popped their bodies on a bench - And took out bits that caused a stench". The book then goes on to tell us about various odors of this era. There is a quick section on the development of mummification and quite a lot of detail into just how it is done. If you are not familiar with the process - this will bring whole new meaning to the term "pick your nose". There are cartoon illustrations of the embalmers pulling out guts, stuffing and wrapping the body. The pages with pharaohs smelly feet a fragrant feast, and Cleopatra on a rose covered barge appear to be included just to work a few more smells into the book, but other pages are genuinely very interesting - especially to little boys with a wicked sense of humor.
My sons enjoyed the picture of a very green Napoleon who came out of pyramid obviously sickened. They found the idea of using onions to fill out the eye sockets and peppercorns to keep a nose open amusing but their absolute favourite was a recipe to keep evil spirits away. You simple apply lizard's filth, gazelle dung, fish bile, cos liver and things a crocodile digests to your face and all the nasty spirits ( and most of friends and family) will stay well away. The pictures of children playing in the Nile while people dump pots of poo all around them was quite popular as well, as was the nude drawing of a very plump woman in the shower, apparently using hippo fat to keep her skin smooth. The section on animals isn't bad either - but it is quite limited. Finally there is a list of jobs that would make working for Asda look good. There is the embalmer of course, and his assistant with the wee nose hook. There is also the guardian of the royal bowel movement, grave robber, and worst of all slave.
Overall, the book is not bad, it certainly has it's funny moments and it does have some educational value as well, but sadly is just does not live up to what it says on the tin. I did buy this book used as new - rather than completely new as this book does not appear to be in print anymore. However, I have had scratch and sniff books in the past and there usually a fair amount of smell for quite some time. Other reviewers mentioned that the smell does fade very quickly and this appears to be the case. I can detect most of the scents, but only just barely and I am extremely sensitive to smell - far more so than most people. The roses are slightly rosy and the frankincense is a nice smell. But the just opened mummy case with a mouldy mummy smells only very slightly of soap, and the dung pile a very faint pine like scent. The pharaoh's feet have no scent at all. Despite this, the children did enjoy sniffing their way through this.
This book might still be worth having just as bit of fun to lighten up lessons on ancient Egypt, or to add to the collection of a Mummy Mad child. It is reasonably well illustrated with colour drawings and much shorter than a Horrible History book, so suitable for a very young age. This was bought for my 4 year old, but was also used for my 8 year old as we are doing a quick study on Mummies. But I do have other - and better Mummy books and I really would not have bought this if it were not for the smells . I will certainly still keep this book - but for a humorous take _ I'd rather have chosen a Horrible Histories book and for a more serious book on Mummies I would really recommend My Best Book of Mummies, or one of the books by DK or Usborne. I paid £2.83 for this, only slightly more than Amazons current price of £2.79 with free delivery.