We have been in a big Ancient Egypt phase lately, and given our ongoing love of all things spooky I was especially excited to find The Official Guide to the Ancient Egyptian Afterlife by Laura Winstone. It has definitely been getting a lot more re-reading than most of our other Ancient Egypt non-fiction! Bright illustrations plus clear short sections of information keeps things engaging – and not too morbid! – for younger readers.
The book is narrated by Bastet the Cat, Ancient Egyptian goddess and your own personal tour guide to the afterlife. This speech style means the information never seems too dense or impenetrable, and is often split into little speech bubbles which address the reader directly. I found this engaged the 5yo much more (and it’s always good to have an excuse for silly voices!)
After a busy messy summer, we’re getting everything ready for the start of a new school and university year – and everyone knows the first step of tidying up is organising the bookshelves! So while we sort out our shelves full of myths and monsters, we thought we’d share some of our current favourites from the ‘beautifully illustrated hardbacks’ category. We’d love to hear yours!
Meg and Mog are a bedtime staple in our house – we love the bright cheerful illustrations and the slightly nonsensical stories. Since I’ve been working on so many Roman-themed projects this year, it seemed like it was finally time to get ourselves a copy of Meg and the Romans by Jan Pienkowski and David Walser! I’d umm-ed and ahh-ed over getting it as it has some pretty negative reviews online, but as long as you’re not expecting grand historical accuracy and are ready to muddle through a bit of Latin it is a lovely silly story. And just look at that chipper, carefree Julius Caesar on the cover!
The story starts with our usual characters deciding to go for a picnic on a lovely day at the spot where the Romans landed – and they immediately see a Roman ship sailing towards them. Even with the simplified illustration you can see the cute Roman eagle, little gold shields, and sail emblazoned with ‘SPQR’. This is an abbreviation for senatus populusque Romanus which means ‘the Senate and the people of Rome’. Here come Roman soldiers!
The summer holidays are here! The 5yo is enjoying a break from school, and I’m very much enjoying a few weeks of annual leave after a really busy year – and we have plenty of time to try out some new ancient-themed activities! I usually get a few bits and pieces from Baker Ross to keep us busy on rainy / inside days, and they have an excellent selection of Roman, Greek, and Egyptian crafts (as well as plenty of Halloween ones too, if like us, you are impatiently waiting for spooky season) We had a little trip to The Pottery Experience in Jesmond last week and the 5yo enjoyed it so much he wanted to test out his newly-acquired skills by painting the ‘Sphinx’ money-boxes at home. So we set to work!
The ‘Sphinx’ ceramic money-boxes were on sale (a box of 2 was £3.95) and are much bigger than I expected! They have a coin slot on the back and a plastic stopper in the bottom, so no smashing required. They are modelled after the head of the Great Sphinx of Giza – no lion body, alas! But the details are lovely and the ceramic is nice and smooth. We wiped it with the hard side of a sponge to get rid of any dust and then sponged it down with little a bit of water.
We love exploring the different sites along Hadrian’s Wall – it really captures the 5yo’s imagination, and we’re so lucky to have so many amazing kid-friendly sites on our doorstep! Plus, he is always especially happy to investigate a Roman-sword-stocked gift shop. Over the Easter holidays we decided to venture a bit further afield for a few days to explore some parts of the wall we hadn’t been to before. After a month stuck in the house together in March with a seemingly never-ending case of family Covid, the fresh air and open fields were definitely calling!
We don’t drive, so getting around rural areas can sometimes be a bit tricky. The Tyne Valley railway line from Newcastle stops at several useful points for getting out to explore the Roman past in Northumberland. A good stretch of the Wall also has its very own bus service, the AD122 (get it!? The Emperor Hadrian ordered the building of the wall in AD122!) which is especially handy if you’re not quite ready for a mammoth hike between sites or you have a small person in tow. It runs daily between April and October, and the timetable is fairly regular. We got the 3 Day Travel Pass so we could hop on and off when needed, which made things really easy. And naturally the 5yo quickly became best friends with the bus driver.
Another great feature of the AD122 bus route is that it stops right by the entrance of Herding Hill Farm, a beautiful family-friendly camping spot. The 5yo was keen to go camping, so as a slight compromise on lugging around a tent we booked ourselves in here for a couple of nights in one of their glamping pods. It was LOVELY! It is only a couple of stops outside of Haltwhistle but it feels pleasantly remote and has beautiful views over the hills. The site itself was amazing: really child-friendly (the lovely lady at reception asked the 5yo to check us in, which he was extremely pleased about!) with plenty of amenities including a shop and a shower/kitchen block with family bathroom. But perhaps most importantly of all, Herding Hill has a petting farm and a ROMAN FORT play-park! Okay, okay, so the latter might have been one of the main reasons I booked it.. 100% worth it!