We chose to read A Cry from Egypt by Hope Auer. Hope is a recent homeschool graduate, and although this is her first novel, she has been writing plays and stories since she was quite young. This story started as a research project when she was studying ancient Egypt as a thirteen-year-old! The illustrator, Mike Slaton, is also a recent homeschool graduate.
A Cry from Egypt is an historical fiction book dealing with the time period leading up to the Exodus, when the Hebrew people were slaves in Egypt. The main character is Jarah, a Hebrew girl about twelve years old. We see slavery, the hope for freedom, and the plagues through her eyes and get a glimpse of what life would have been like during that time for a Hebrew family. As modern readers of the Bible, we already know that there will be ten plagues and that Pharoah will change his mind about letting God's people go several times. We know that God will protect His people Israel from much of the destruction of the plagues. Sometimes it can be hard to read the account in Exodus and understand what it might have been like to live through that time, especially as a young person who wasn't privy to the elders' meetings with Moses and Aaron, and didn't know what would happen next.
Hope Auer's book captures that suspense, uncertainty, and anticipation very well; and explores some of the probable situations that Hebrew people may have experienced. Many of them must have been working for and with Egyptians and some of those relationships would have been cordial and others hostile. What might it have been like to be a Hebrew working with Egyptians who were suffering from the plagues? Were there Israelites who were faithful to their God and tried to witness to their masters? Were the Hebrews told what plagues would be coming next and how long each would last? In this story, it seems that they don't, or at least the children don't, which was a different aspect to consider. We can assume that some of the Israelites had accepted at least bits and pieces of Egyptian religion (based on the later events after they left Egypt), and Jarah's family is somewhat divided because of this. Her mother honors Egyptian gods, while her father is faithful to Yahweh, and there are some conflicts within the family over which gods to trust and what the children should be taught.
At our house, Kennady read the book first, and it is intended for younger readers - about 8 years old and up. She loved it. I had thought to read it along with her, but once she got started, it seemed she couldn't put it down. I had given it to her right before we went on vacation, and she devoured it while we were driving. She updated me regularly throughout her reading as to which plague was happening, and all the relationships and sub-plots going on. Obviously, she was completely drawn in by the characters and story lines and it made the events of the Exodus real to her in a special way, as she saw it through the eyes of a girl about her age to whom she could relate.
When it was my turn to read, I thoroughly enjoyed the book as well, even forgetting at times that it was meant to be for young readers! The settings are well researched, and give poignant insight into what the daily experiences may have been like during this time. There are several subplots, including a little bit of romance - Jarah's oldest brother wants to marry, but the Hebrew girl he has chosen works in the palace and may be given to an Egyptian in marriage. There is conflict between Jarah's parents because they serve different gods, so their home is not always a happy refuge. Throughout the story, Jarah is learning that she can trust in Yahweh and His power as she yearns for freedom and peace.
What we liked best:
- exciting, well-constructed story that is historically accurate and faithful to the Bible
- historical fiction that is appropriate for young readers
- I loved that the character Jarah had the kinds of struggles that a modern-day girl of that age would face, even though her setting was so different - things like forgiving others, doing her chores, getting along with siblings, and being kind to people who are unkind.
- thought-provoking look at a familiar Bible story
- an engaging read for adults too!
What I need to mention:
- the target age is 8 and up, and I think it would be perfectly fine for a read-aloud for that age group, but I wonder if it would be too much for most 8 year-olds in terms of reading level and some content. There are a few places where someone is whipped or beaten, and although not graphic, it may be upsetting to some sensitive youngsters. For instance, the book opens with a nightmare Jarah has in which she is whipped by an Egyptian guard for being out past curfew.
- I realize that we had an advance reader copy, but I do hope that there might be a final edit before the full publishing run. I noticed a few minor typographical errors (things like the word "her" when it should have been "him") - only a small handful, and I didn't think that any of them confused the story in any way.
I am so glad we were able to read this book and we are already eagerly awaiting the sequel! This is Book One of The Promised Land series, and a preview chapter of the next book appears at the end of A Cry from Egypt.
This book would be a great addition to a study of ancient Egypt or Israel, as a family read-aloud, or just for the pure enjoyment of reading a good story!
Would your family like to read A Cry from Egypt? Here's what you need to know:
This book is intended for ages 8 and up, and advance reader copies are available for $12.50 at http://acryfromegypt.com/store/. At the main page for A Cry from Egypt, you will also find Hope Auer's blog which features a great series on writing, which might be helpful to students and homeschool teachers alike.
You can also visit the Raising Real Men website for more information about this and other books they publish, and check out all the other great features on the rest of the website while you are there.
Follow Raising Real Men on Facebook too!
Visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog for more information and to read other Crew member reviews. Crew members also reviewed another new book from Great Waters Press, Children In Church.