cover image The Scarab's Secret

The Scarab's Secret

Nick Would. Walker & Company, $16.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8027-9561-8

A scarab beetle-revered among ancient Egyptians-serves as both narrator and hero of this stylishly illustrated tale. Would (The Warrior and the Moon) sets his story along the banks of the Nile, where the pale blue beetle encounters a young pharaoh, who scoops him up and says: ""The rising sun shines down on me, and yet I hold the sun in my hand-for, Khepri, your name means 'rising sun.' "" The two meet again after Khepri inadvertently catches a ride in a basket of dried figs bound for the pharaoh's tomb, which is under construction. After discovering a trap set there to kill the pharaoh, Khepri humbly finds a way to warn him. Readers lacking the historical background for this story (given in an endnote) may find the events hard to put into context. But a few suspenseful spreads and the sumptuous, albeit busy, illustrations will help maintain interest. Balit (Atlantis: The Legend of the Lost City) skillfully unifies the scenes with ornate patterns in tones that reflect the earth, sun and sea. Geometric, gilt-edged motifs repeat on plant leaves, bird feathers and the pharaoh's elaborate jewelry. In the scene of Khepri in the fig basket aboard a Nile River boat, the rounded arc of the bow gracefully divides the text from the remaining three-fourths of a spread, awash in blue-green hues and recurring gentle curves. Balit's compelling artwork complements what might serve as an intriguing introduction to ancient Egypt. Ages 4-8.