Book Review: The Mouse Who Saved Egypt January 04, 2015 13:00

By Karim Alrawi, illustrated by Bee Willey, Crocodile Books, 2011, hardcover, 32 pp. 

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Reviewed by Andrew Stimson

Acclaimed Egyptian playwright and free speech activist Karim Alrawi retells an ancient Egyptian folktale of simple kindness repaid a thousand-fold. Born in Alexandria, Alrawi studied creative writing at the University of Manchester, England, as well as the University of British Columbia, Canada and the University of Iowa. Several of his plays were censored in Egypt, and he was arrested in 1993 for his work with the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights. In the UK and Canada his plays have received popular acclaim and several awards. He recently returned to his country in 2011 to help document corruption and threats to free speech.

Alrawi’s expertly crafted narrative voice in The Mouse Who Saved Egypt conjures a timeless atmosphere as he tells the story of a young prince who rescues a mouse caught in a thorn bush. That evening the prince dreams of the sun god Amon-Ra, whose rhyming pronouncements lead the prince to discover a giant stone sphinx buried in the sand. The prince soon becomes a pharaoh and Egypt flourishes under his reign. Even the mice eat well! When an army appears on the kingdom’s doorstep the pharaoh prays to Amon-Ra and discovers that his act of kindness so many years ago has the power to save his people.

Bee Willey’s colorful digital media illustrations depict grand full-page palace columns covered in intricate hieroglyphics and multiple-panel images of daily life in ancient Egypt. Young and old readers alike will be captivated by the ancient architecture, crafts, dress and traditions. Young readers aged 3-7 will want to revisit this book many times after their first reading.