Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Spinx's Princess

May I be forgiven for accidentally thinking this was Esther Friesner's third book about Helen of Troy (Nobody's Princess, Nobody's Prize)? The title similarity tripped me up, but had I paid attention, I would have noticed the Egyptian dress. This is similar to the other two in that it is a fictionalized account of an ancient princess.

Nefertiti's mother died when she was just a baby, but she is raised by her father (brother to the Pharaoh's wife) and a very loving nanny, who becomes her stepmother and provides Nefertiti with a much beloved sister. Nefertiti is happy: beautiful, tutored to read and write, and able to escape an arranged marriage with a priest's son. Then, the family is summoned to the royal court by Queen Tiye, who feels that her son, Thutmose, is in danger of losing his position as heir to the throne to the sons of younger and more favored wives. To secure his ascendency, she attempts to marry Nefertiti to him quickly so that they will produce an heir. This doesn't sit well with Nefertiti, who prefers Thutmose's brother Amenophis as well as her own independence.

I was a little leery of this at first, because I have trouble selling the marvelous Dorothy Carter title, Her Majesty, Queen Hatshepsut (1987) even though the 6th grade social studies curriculum covers Egypt. The book is not short (364 pages), but it did pull me in, and had wonderful details of every day life. Nefertiti doesn't reflect the attitudes for women at the time, but this is part of what makes these books fun. Sure, Nefertiti was beautiful, but what if she was also feisty? This book won't be a blockbuster, but will circulate steadily for years. I've seen reviews of this recommending it for grades 8-12, but this will be fine for my 6th graders.

After reading The Book Whisperer, I did put a concerted effort into making it a point to ask all of my classes if they were happy with their books, and there were about four students in every class who came up to me and said that they weren't. Was it worth scrapping my book talks for the week to tell them again that their job is to read, and my job is to make them happy with what they are reading? To those 30ish students who came forward-- absolutely. Most of the students didn't know what to read next, some were bogged down in a book they didn't like, and a very few just didn't want to read anything.

The lesson for today is that letting readers know that we do care about what they are reading and how it makes them feel is really important. It's hard to do, but even telling this to groups of students can be effective.


  1. Good lesson. My son is reading a book I gave him for Christmas and both of us weren't thrilled about the first two chapters. It's so hard whether to give up and move on to another book or keep reading. This one is a fairly easy read for him so we went on. It did get better, but still not one of our favorites. There are times though to move on to something else!

  2. Love that! Your job is to make them happy with what they're reading. Mine is to find them what they would be happy with (ok, if I worked in a pub or school library it would be :)

  3. I think it's so important to stress to students that it's ok to abandon a book you're not enjoying. Certainly forcing a child to continue on with a book that he/she hates just doesn't work to encourage a love of reading. Just like we teach students how to select books they enjoy, it's also important to give them permission to choose something else if the book wasn't right for them.

  4. I love how dedicated you are to finding the right books for your kids. Kudos! I'm always inspired when I stop by your blog. (Although the number of books that get added to my list increases exponentially!)