Pepi and the Secret Names

Jill Paton Walsh, Author, Fiona French, Illustrator HarperCollins Publishers $15 (1p) ISBN 978-0-688-13428-0
Pyramids, hieroglyphics, secret names, a lowly painter and an exacting pharaoh-the elements of this elegantly illustrated story are ripe with possibilities, but they never cohere. When Pepi's father descends into Prince Dhutmose's tomb to paint the animals that will accompany the prince to the Land of the Dead, Pepi bravely provides him with live models-a lion, hawk, crocodile and cobra-for he has guessed their secret names (the point of a secret name, however, is never explained). In the text, the names are presented in hieroglyphics, thus bringing the story to a temporary halt; a code in the back of the book, though not linguistically accurate, allows readers to write English words in hieroglyphics ``just for fun.'' Nor are similarly elaborate details fully integrated into the narrative. Greenaway Medalist French (Anancy and Mr. Dry Bone) combines crisply stylized tomb paintings with child-pleasing caricatures of animals, but the page design sometimes seems frenetic-pale, pastel designs oddly mingling with brightly colored Egyptian motifs. While the writer and the illustrator each demonstrate individual strengths, text and pictures do little to enhance each other. Ages 6-up. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/03/1995
Release date: 04/01/1995
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