Title: The Golden Goblet
Author: Eloise Jarvis McGraw
Major Themes: Ancient Egypt, Historical Fiction, Children’s Mystery
Synopsis: Ranofer’s life has been all but easy—and with his life hanging in the balance, will he be able to reveal a terrible crime before it is too late?
The Golden Goblet is a terrible book to read as a read aloud. Trust me, I know all too well—this mystery is hard to put down at the best of times, and unless you want to put your children through torture please do not read this aloud. (I believe my brothers will back me on that point as well.) Eloise Jarvis McGraw has written another masterpiece, and I don’t think your family will want to miss out.
The story opens with Ranofer, a young Egyptian, working in a goldsmith’s shop. He is happy at his work—until he remembers Gebu, a stonecutter, his half-brother who does everything but love and care for him. Then there is Ibni, a sneaky Babylonian who works at the goldsmith’s shop, who sends gifts of date wine to Gebu—even though they aren’t friends at all.
One day, they find out that the weights of gold at the shop are not tallying properly—someone is stealing gold. Ranofer is convinced it is Ibni, who then sends it on to Gebu—but how can he know for sure? And if he does report Ibni, Gebu will say he never saw the gold—which will put Ranofer in danger. Ranofer decides he will stop bringing the wineskins—but then, Gebu beats him and threatens to apprentice him to himself—which will mean Ranofer can never learn the trade he loves—working as a goldsmith.
Then, Ibni is fired, and Gebu has no use for Ranofer at the goldsmith’s shop anymore. Ranofer must learn to be a stonecutter, a job he detests with all his being. Will Gebu’s secrets ever be revealed? Will Ranofer ever be able to become a goldsmith—or will he forever be subjected to working as a stonecutter? And—most importantly—can Ranofer ever be truly happy?
The Golden Goblet is a wonderful example of Eloise Jarvis McGraw’s talent at drawing a story together. Besides a gripping mystery, we get both an interesting and an exciting glimpse into Ancient Egypt. This story is wonderful as a read aloud, or as an individual reader. Your family will love it.
Eloise Jarvis McGraw has got to be one of the best authors of children’s historical fiction there is. We’ve read at least four of her books, and every one of them was a page-turner. The Golden Goblet was no exception. She has brought Ancient Egypt to life very vividly, and we could hardly stop when it was time to get on with our jobs again! In fact, some people in the family couldn’t keep working on what they were supposed to be doing while I was reading; I had to keep reminding them that there were dishes waiting to be washed still!
As the story opens, young Ranofer is working for a goldsmith, wishing he could be apprenticed so he could really learn the craft his heart is set on practicing. However, since his father died, he must live with and obey his older half-brother, who refuses to apprentice him to the goldsmith. One day, after the master goldsmith informs the workmen in the shop that somehow gold is disappearing, Ranofer realizes that his brother must be using him to steal it! What will Ranofer do now? Can he expose his brother for the criminal he is, without incriminating himself in the process?
Through The Golden Goblet, we learn a lot about Egypt in the time of the pharoahs, about funeral and burial customs, and about the farming system. There is a lot, also, about the beliefs and superstitions of Ancient Egypt. It is a very good resource to add to your study of Egypt and bring the time period to life.
WARNING: There is lying throughout the book. Pages 77 and 78 tell of a hanging. There is also quite a few mentions of Egyptian gods and other Egyptian superstitions. Some scenes in the book may be scary for younger listeners.
Listening Level—Ages 8 – 12, 10 – 12, Family Friendly
Reading Independently—Ages 8 – 12, 10 – 12, 12 – 15, 15 and Above