How to make the mundane exciting
How to Find Egyptian Treasure by Caryl Hart and Ed Eaves, Simon and Schuster
Albie is one of Caryl Hart's most popular creations. The star of ten stories, he celebrated his first decade in picture books last summer, and there are more books to come. How to Track a Sabre-Toothed Tiger, is releasing on 5th August 2021.
I love how the Albie books transform everyday events and mundane activities into magnificent escapades. They remind me of the games and imaginary worlds children create themselves. Albie first appeared in Supermarket Zoo, an inventive story about a shopping trip where the aisles are stocked with wild animals instead of groceries!
How to Find Egyptian Treasure is Albie's 9th story, one of my girls' favourite books, and one I've been meaning to share here for a while. My six-year-old has been going through a phase of refusing to read stories unless they're about girls, and the youngest has been copying her. I often have to pretend certain books have female protagonists and change their names. She insists I refer to Wolfboy as "Wolfgirl", even though she can read the title and knows what it really says. When I bought How to Find Egyptian Treasure, it was because I was curious about it and wanted to see it myself. I didn't expect my kids to be interested in it because of their bizarre but firm gender bias. Despite being a male protagonist, Albie won them over as soon as the book arrived. After we had finished reading this for the first time, my eldest said "I LOVE it - can we read it again?" How to Find Egyptian Treasure is such a brilliant story, I can understand why they enjoy it so much and are willing to break their rules for Albie.
Albie is playing in his sandpit when "a ferocious wind begins to blow" and he is suddenly transported to Ancient Egypt. He quickly finds new friends and before he knows it, is hunting for lost treasure. Readers are taken on an action-packed tour which takes in pyramids, a sphinx, secret passageways, hidden chambers and a sarcophagus. There's a group of dangerous thieves as well as escaped mummies (one human, one feline and one rodent!) on the loose. It's really exciting with lots of suspense and thrilling moments. Ed Eaves' illustrations are marvellous - so dynamic and detailed. I love the spread which features a map, and my kids love tracing Albie's route along this too. There's a brilliant part where Albie and his pals are sliding down a tunnel and the book flips on its side to better reflect their descent. I love the scene at the end showing a feast and a table full of delicacies. We always spend ages look at this and talking about what the everyone is eating and what some of the foods might taste like.
It's so clever how the Albie books conclude with a glimpse of the next story. There are Roman centurions on the very last page of this one, hinting at Book 10, How to Drive a Roman Chariot. I think I said something like, "Can't wait to see that one," the first time we read this, as it has stuck in my eldest's head. Now, when we get to the last page of any picture book, she always says "can't wait for that book to come out!"
This is just the type of book I would have loved myself as a child. I was obsessed with Ancient Egypt, and who doesn't love a story that features secret passageways and includes a map? It's fantastic that there are so many Albie adventures, and we are looking forward to exploring them all.
We were delighted to have a virtual chat with author Caryl Hart in January. This was part of the blog tour for Mini Monsters: Can I be the best? Caryl told us a bit more about what we can expect from How to Track a Sabre-Toothed Tiger: "This is the 11th Albie book and in this story, Albie is whisked back in time to the stone age. Here he meets a girl called Thorn and her kitten, Claw. When Claw escapes, the two friends follow different types of animal tracks trying to find him. There are lots of historical details in the story for children to find and Ed Eaves has included lots of adorable prehistoric animals so I think Albie fans will love it!"
We asked Caryl some more questions about Albie and here they are: We’ve just discovered the Albie series and my two girls LOVE Albie and how these books turn mundane everyday events and activities into exciting and surprising adventures. Was your own childhood similar to Albie's - did you use your imagination to transform boring tasks when you were young yourself and then when your own children were little?
I’m so glad you’re loving these stories! I had a great childhood and growing up, my parents often referred to our games and outings as adventures. They were very hands-on and we did lots of activities together including long bike rides, building dens and exploring. They were very child-centric in the way they brought us up, giving us the power to make decisions and encouraging us to challenge ourselves work things out for ourselves.
As parents ourselves, we have always tried to do this for our own children and definitely used imaginative play to help make everyday activities exciting. We are the kind of parents who expect our (now adult) children to take responsibility for their own learning and life choices, and tried to encourage them to be independent thinkers. Hopefully it’s working out for them now they are young adults!
We love how the Albie books give a hint about his next adventure on their final pages and it’s such a clever idea. How did you think of this – was it inspired by anything in particular?
The first book, Supermarket Zoo was written as a stand-alone very early on in my career. In
fact it was one of the first books I ever got published. The following year, I wrote How to Grow a Dinosaur and sent it to my editor at Simon and Schuster to see if she thought it might be a suitable second story for Albie. Luckily for me, she loved it and the series was born.
The idea of having a clue at the end of each story evolved from the second shopping list at the back of Supermarket Zoo and from seeing Ed Eaves’ rough illustration at the end of How to Grow a Dinosaur. His illustration inspired me to create Welcome to Alien School and the rest followed on from there.
We're delighted to be joining the blog tour for Caryl's next book, Sonny Says, "Mine!" - look out for our review on the 14th April. Don't forget to check out the rest of the tour too: