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Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos



Last updated Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Author: R. L. LaFevers
Date of Publication: 2007
ISBN: 0618756388
Grade Level: 5th    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: May 2011

Synopsis: From School Library Journal:

A combination of Nancy Drew and Indiana Jones, Theo Throckmorton is in big trouble. The 11-year-old lives in London in 1906 and spends most of her time in an antiquities museum headed by her father and filled with objects from her mother's archaeological expeditions to Egypt. Bossy, clever, and learned in the lore of ancient Egypt, the girl constantly worries that the work-obsessed parents who ignore and neglect her will be destroyed by virulent ancient curses that only she can detect. When her mother returns from her latest trip with an amulet inscribed with curses so powerful they could unleash the Serpents of Chaos and destroy the British Empire, Theo finds herself caught up in a web of intrigue and danger. It pits her, along with some unexpected allies, against German operatives trying to use the scarab as a weapon in their political and economic rivalry with England. Theo must draw on all her resources when she confronts her enemies alone, deep in an Egyptian tomb. There, she makes some surprising discoveries, both personal and archaeological. Vivid descriptions of fog-shrouded London and hot, dusty Cairo enhance the palpable gothic atmosphere, while page-turning action and a plucky, determined heroine add to the book's appeal. Unfortunately, Theo's narrative voice lurches between the diction of an Edwardian child and that of a modern teen. The ambiguous ending, with its hints at the approaching World War, seems to promise a sequel. A fine bet for a booktalk to classes studying ancient Egypt.

Note to readers:
•  This handout of Egyptian hieroglyphs will be available at the reading clubs.
•  Start by reading the inside of the cover instead of the first 2 chapters, then skip to pg. 22, "Out of the Frying Pan, Into the, er, Cat" (the first 2 chapters are unnecessary to the plot). This is also what we recommend you did when reading aloud to the kids.
•  pp. 22-50 are the most interesting parts of the book to cover during the book club
•  Egyptians terms defined for you: hieroglyphs: ancient Egyptian pictographic writing (see handout that comes with the book this month). Isis: primary Egyptian goddess of motherhood and magic. Scarab: a beetle. Anubis:. jackal-headed god of mummies and the afterlife. Bastet: female cat goddess (Egyptians worshiped cats).
•  "Evil incarnate" is something that physically embodies evil
•  For names that are hard to pronounce, feel free to model for the kids how you can just settle on pronunciations and not worry much about pronouncing them correctly.

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  The book is set in 1906. What is different about life in 1906 compared to your life right now, especially for an 11 year old girl.
•  What do you know about ancient Egypt? Have you ever heard of King Tut's curse, or what happened to many of the people who broke into the pyramids?

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  The book is set in 1906. What is different about life in 1906 compared to your life right now, especially for an 11 year old girl.
•  What do you know about ancient Egypt? Have you ever heard of King Tut's curse, or what happened to many of the people who broke into the pyramids? Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  Read aloud the first sentence of the dedication before part 1. What do you think the book will be about?
•  Studying ancient Egypt is Theodosia's great interest and hobby. Do you have something you like to study or learn about? How do you learn about it?
•  Have you gone to any museums? What did you like that you saw there?
•  Do you think that Theodosia’s cleverness and intelligence would have been treated differently by those around her if she had been a boy? If so, in what ways?
•  Wherever you end reading for the day, ask the kids what they think will happen next.

Craft ideas:
•  Based on the example hieroglyphs included as a reference sheet, create your own hieroglyphic symbol for your name, or spell your name in hieroglyphs.
•  Draw a picture of how you imagine one of the carvings or statues in the book. Later you can look up what those statues or carvings probably look like in real life.

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don’t have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!