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Seeker of Knowledge


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About the Author

Master storyteller James Rumford combines his love for art and history in his picture books. Each of his books is vastly different in its content, design, and illustrations but one aspect remains constant throughout his work: his passion about his subjects. Rumford, a resident of Hawaii, has studied more than a dozen languages and worked in the Peace Corps, where he traveled to Africa, Asia, and Afghanistan. He draws from these experiences and the history of his subject when he is working on a book. His book Sequoyah: The Cherokee Man Who Gave His People Writing was a 2005 Sibert Honor winner.


A tale of heroic perseverance and discovery, Rumford's (The Cloudmakers) picture book biography of Jean-Fran‡ois Champollion, the early-19th-century amateur scholar who first deciphered hieroglyphs, will fire the imagination. Elegant watercolors offer pivotal views of the determined young Frenchman, from his initial boyhood interest in Egypt through the years of solo study while teaching school in Grenoble, to his meeting with Napoleon, with whom he shared a passion for Egypt ("Napoleon dreamed of glory. Jean-Fran‡ois dreamed of discovery"), his eventual breakthrough in 1822 and, finally, his expedition up the Nile. As adept with his pen as he is with his watercolor brush, Rumford etches his lucid prose with lyrical descriptions ("The rushing sound of the pharaoh's name, as if carried on wings across the centuries, filled the room"). Occasional hieroglyphs (suggesting "meet," "sailed," "dog," "celebrated" and so on) are inserted in the text but are too simplistic to intrigue readers. Much more effectively, the margins are peppered with examples of Egyptian words and their hidden meanings: "There is a long-necked, far-seeing giraffe in `predict,' " for instance, and "There are strongly woven sandals firmly planted on the ground in `never give up.' " An afterword provides further information, and a chart of a couple dozen hieroglyphic words offers a glimpse of the translation process. Ages 5-9. (Apr.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

Gr 2-5-This picture-book biography tells the intriguing story of the man who deciphered Egyptian hieroglyphs. As a child, Jean-Fran‡ois Champollion learned that no one could read Egyptian writing and determined that he would be the one to do so. By age 16, he had learned all the known ancient languages and was eager to work with scholars who were attempting to translate the hieroglyphs with the help of the Rosetta Stone. Though they turned him down, he doggedly pursued his passion on his own and at age 30, had a sudden breakthrough. While studying the name of a Pharaoh copied from a temple wall, he discovered that the characters were not just related to meaning, but also to sounds. Though the key to unlocking the secret may not be completely clear to children, Champollion's fascination with hieroglyphs and the realization of his dream will capture their interest and perhaps whet their curiosity for further study. Framed watercolor paintings done in soft blues, purples, and sunlit pinks evoke a sense of mystery compatible with the suspense of the scholar's discovery process. Small hieroglyphs are embedded in the text. Those with less-obvious meanings seem distracting at first reading. More effective are the larger, captioned ones in the margins that make the picture-meaning connection clear ("There is a long-necked, far-seeing giraffe in `predict'"). Overall, an engaging introduction to a timeless topic.-Adele Greenlee, Bethel College, St. Paul, MN Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

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