Today I visited the MAGIC TREE HOUSE camp at my favorite indie, Little Shop of Stories, for an activity related to ancient Egypt. Krista read to them from Mummies in the Morning as I set up and then it was my turn. Only I hadn’t expected the children to be so young.
Anubis Speaks: A Guide to the Afterworld by the Egyptian God of the Dead is perfect for nine-to-twelve-year-olds. Would my stories frighten seven year olds?
I started with a simple question: “Is a myth ‘real?'”
“Noooooo,” the children cried.
“Right. A myth is a story people believed,” I said, begging forgiveness from the gods of graduate school for the over-simplification. “Not necessarily true or fact.”
I started there because sometimes, at the Carlos Museum, I’m brought up short by a young child–eyes huge with concern–who asks whether the stories I’m telling about ancient religious beliefs are “true.” Since I was going to talk about death, mummies and monsters, I wanted to be clear
about the difference between stories and reality lest I get branded, “The Nightmare Bringer.”
I explained how Anubis weighed the hearts of the dead against the “Feather of Truth” or Ma’at to see if they’d been “good and decent.” Those whose hearts weighed as much as, or less than, the Feather got to live happily in the afterworld for eternity. Those whose hearts did not pass the test where eaten by Amut.
Then I showed them my scale, the feather and the plastic crocodile my daughter borrowed from a friend.
The kids would weigh their own hearts. They got to decide whether they would pass the “Big Test” by either stuffing their felt hearts with nearly weightless fluff, or filling it with beads of bad deeds. They thought that was awesome.
When they were finished, we weighed each little heart against the feather on my trusty scale. Most kids chose to make “light” hearts, but several–giggling all the way–opted to stuff their hearts to the brim with the black and glowing beads of misdeeds (just as I would’ve done as a kid!). When their hearts “failed” the test, our stand-in for the crocodile-headed monster, Amut–the plastic croc–pretended to gobble-up their evil little hearts.
So. Much. Fun!
The kids seemed to enjoy it and I certainly had fun. Camps at Little Shop are always so awesome! Can’t wait to do it again!