Secrets of the Sphinx

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Overview

James Cross Giblin, this year's winner of the Sibert Medal, has written a stunning exploration of one of history's most mysterious structures.

The Great Sphinx is one of the largest sculptures in the world. Six stories high and a city block wide, it has stood guard over the pyramids of Egypt's Giza Plateau for 4,500 years. Who built the Sphinx and why? And how did primitive sculptors manage to carve such a towering monument? In search of answers, James Cross Giblin takes readers...

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Overview

James Cross Giblin, this year's winner of the Sibert Medal, has written a stunning exploration of one of history's most mysterious structures.

The Great Sphinx is one of the largest sculptures in the world. Six stories high and a city block wide, it has stood guard over the pyramids of Egypt's Giza Plateau for 4,500 years. Who built the Sphinx and why? And how did primitive sculptors manage to carve such a towering monument? In search of answers, James Cross Giblin takes readers back to a time before written history and traces the trail of clues left behind by the ancient Egyptians. As he explores various theories, Giblin seamlessly incorporates fascinating information on the pyramids, the Rosetta Stone, Atlantis, and more.

Discusses some of Egypt's most famous artifacts and monuments, including the pyramids, the Rosetta Stone, and, especially, the Great Sphinx, presenting research and speculation about their origins and their future.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
James Cross Giblin (The Riddle of the Rosetta Stone) transports readers to Egypt once again for Secrets of the Sphinx, illus. by Bagram Ibatoulline. The author delves into the debates over when the Sphinx was built, the lives of the early Egyptians and how best to preserve the monument for future generations. Gouache and watercolor paintings sweep across the spreads, portraying a muted, majestic landscape of the past and present, and at other times decorating the spreads with hieroglyphs. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
In this fascinating overview of one of Egypt's national treasures, Giblin's writing is, as usual, clear and unfolding in such a logical way that the reader asks the very question Giblin is about to answer. Text begins with a description of the present-day marvel, the Sphinx, which has existed for some forty-five hundred years. Ibatoulline's paintings are near photo realistic in portraying the modern day Cairo and its encroachment on the desert as seen from just behind the Sphinx. Where did this monument come from and how was it built? Giblin traces the settlement, the basic lives of Egyptians millennia ago and the construction of the Sphinx, and then informs readers what archaeologists know but what myth suggests. Giblin summarizes the importance of Jean-Francois Champollion's deciphering of the Rosetta Stone (about which he has also written), the myth of Atlantis and its probable origins, Edgar Cayce and his beliefs, and finally, the protection of this crumbling carved limestone and what has been done and what needs to be done. The book's artwork does a good job of fleshing out the probable lives of the people, the appearances of the painted Sphinx, and how it was carved. Some illustrations would have benefited from captions because meaning of the friezes, papyrus-like painted decorations, and hieroglyphics are left to the readers' imagination. The useful and interesting backmatter includes Giblin's retelling of Oedipus solving Sphix's riddle, Giblin's very personalized annotated bibliography of sources, and an index. Italicized words are carefully defined within the text and need no glossary. 2004, Scholastic, Ages 9 to 14.
—Susan Hepler, Ph.D.
School Library Journal
Gr 4-7-For thousands of years the Sphinx at Giza has gazed east toward the Nile River. Today, within hundreds of yards from its base, buses unload tourists at the edge of Cairo's urban sprawl. Giblin recounts the history of this monolithic symbol of power and the problems of erosion, air pollution, and tourism that face it today. He provides background on the location, hieroglyphic writing, Egyptian religion, and the flourishing of Fourth Dynasty (considered responsible for the creation of the Sphinx). He weaves ancient legends about the monument with commentary from a first-century visitor (Pliny) and modern-day controversies. Giblin also covers the recent discovery of a workers' settlement at the Giza Plateau and what this tells us about the builders of the monuments. However, his recounting of the story of the destruction of Atlantis and its relationship to the Edgar Cayce Foundation's continued efforts to find a "records chamber" under the statue is a lengthy and confusing digression. Sand-toned paintings reveal the Sphinx in its ancient and modern grandeur and provide readers with an idea of the work performed by laborers at Giza. A simple, attractive map highlights important sites. While many books on ancient Egypt mention the Sphinx, this is the only title devoted exclusively to the topic for this audience. Pairing Secrets with Zahi Hawass's Curse of the Pharaohs (National Geographic, 2004) will provide readers with additional context and bring them up-to-date on archaeological work in the region.-Daryl Grabarek, School Library Journal Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A characteristically solid text is accompanied by gorgeous illustrations to tell the life and times, with a few diversions, of the Sphinx. Giblin provides an overview of Egyptian prehistory and burial customs before launching into the building of the monumental statue, always carefully bringing readers up to date on the most current archaeological discoveries and advising readers where current scholarship is still in the dark. He covers the statue's gradual destruction by time, the elements, and hostile invaders, as well as attempts at restoration in the modern age. Ibatoulline adapts his style admirably to nonfiction, full-bleed gouache-and-watercolor paintings depicting the Sphinx at various moments in its existence, the text's diversion into crackpot theories that associate the Sphinx with Atlantis providing fodder for more fanciful work. He makes evident the gigantic size of the statue through the striking use of perspective and scale: many tiers of staging support myriad tiny workers against its massive bulk. The author's enthusiasm for his subject and the stories around it come through clearly, and an annotated bibliography grounds the enthusiasm in fact. (Nonfiction. 9-12)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780590098472
  • Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 8/25/2004
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Pages: 48
  • Age range: 9 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 1100L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 9.30 (w) x 11.10 (h) x 0.50 (d)

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 16, 2011

    Recommended

    The Great Sphinx is located in Egypt approximately 2oo hundred yards from Cairo. James Cross Giblin captures the mystical aura that surrounds the Great Sphinx in his book "Secrets of the Sphinx". Not only does he enlighten the reader on the many questions that are accompanied with the Sphinx, but also touches on the issues of preserving the Sphinx. Giblin provides insight into the beginnings of Egypt and how the Sphinx came to be. Hieroglyphs are part of this beginning and give leeway to how scholars can theorize who the Sphinx represents or characterizes. The mummification process is also mentioned and Giblin allows readers to understand that the importance of a person determines if they are mummified or not. Further, mummies are entombed which gives us the pyramids and the significance of the placement of The Great Sphinx is not by chance. Throughout this wonderful picture book it promotes readers' thoughts and curiosity of the history of the Sphinx. Not only the history is tapped but the future and preservation of The Great Sphinx is focused on as well. In the end, Giblin further feeds inquiring minds if human nature could be causing the deterioration of one of the world's greatest wonders?

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