I am a South African author with my first children's middle grade adventure under my belt. Since my book - The Secret of the Sacred Scarab - is set in Egypt, there is naturally an educational slant, because there just has to be, given the nature of such a background to the story. I have been asked before how I manage to weave the facts in with the fiction to create something that informs while it entertains. Kids hate being 'told' things in a didactic manner, whether it's information or life lessons. Since my story included both (many) facts about Egypt, and (some) life guidelines, I formulated an approach for integrating both elements into my story.
Facts: My writing has a strong cultural, educational, and ‘thinking’ angle, apart from being wonderfully exciting mysteries. Many adult readers have described Egypt as being ‘like a character’ in my book. Although I never set out to achieve this intentionally, the magnitude of the Egyptian civilization was important to me in the portrayal thereof. It was impossible to skim over the facts when the characters are so deeply enmeshed in something vastly removed from anything in the Western world. Something as simple as catching a bus would be an almost impossible task for a Westerner – unless you like living dangerously. So, when choosing from the (no kidding!) hundreds of thousands of possible facts to include on Egypt, I decided to put in only the details, information, or clues my characters would need to survive. I analyzed every bit of data before weaving it into my writing, asking myself, "That's very interesting to know about this temple. Do my heroes need it to survive?"
Life Lessons: A young preteen or middle grade reader is still (I think) susceptible to values projected in books. I also think it’s a responsibility of authors to consider the target audience, and how they can handle problematic themes or moral dilemmas. I’d like the young readers to learn as they share the journey (and subsequent journeys) with the heroes Adam and Justin that life isn’t always about the next gadget, what your parents can buy you, designer labels, the latest video game, etc. Life is about choices, meanings, friendships, loyalties, moral dilemmas, the right and wrong path to take. I think it’s important for young readers to recognize that, as humans, we are not perfect, but we can make the right decisions or else take steps to correct our mistakes.
My heroes aren’t rebels; they’re nice kids who get tangled up in something bigger than their wildest dreams (or nightmares). They like school, sports and class activities; they love and respect their parents, and want to do the right thing. Their challenges come when they are in a totally different environment with no access to any of their usual support systems, no way of calling for help (kidnapped and tour bus hijacked!), and faced with decisions that draw upon their upbringing and moral training (do they rescue their kidnapper or let him die in desert shifting sand?). My personal aim in creating my characters was to draw out these elements so that parents would feel comfortable with the development of the heroes, and happy that the young reader is taught something in a good way.
We can all be heroes, no matter whom or what we are.
Book and Author Details
Book Synopsis: A 5000-year-old mystery comes to life when a scruffy peddler gives two young South African tourists, Adam and Justin Sinclair, an old Egyptian scarab on their very first day in Egypt. Only when the evil Dr. Faisal Khalid shows a particular interest in the cousins and their scarab, do the boys realize they are in terrible danger. Dr. Khalid wants the relic at all costs. Justin and Adam embark upon the adventure of a lifetime, taking them down the Nile and across the harsh desert in their search for the legendary tomb of the Scarab King, an ancient Egyptian ruler. They are plunged into a whirlpool of hazardous and mysterious events when Dr. Khalid kidnaps them. They survive terrifying dangers in a hostile environment (such as a giant cobra, as well as sinking sand), pursued by enemies in their quest to solve the secret of the sacred scarab. They must translate the hieroglyphic clues on the underside of the scarab, as well as rescue the missing archaeologist James Kinnaird, and their friend, the Egyptologist Ebrahim Faza, before time runs out. They must also learn more about the ancient Seven Stones of Power and the mysterious Shemsu-Hor. With just their wits, courage, and each other, the boys manage to survive … only to find that the end of one journey is the beginning of another!
Nominations: The Secret of the Sacred Scarab was a Finalist in the Children’s/Juvenile Fiction category of the 2009 USA Next Generation Indie Book Awards and in the Children’s Fiction section of the USA National Best Books 2009 Awards. It is also a Finalist (pending winner announcement) in the Preteen category of the 2009 Readers’ Favorites 2009 Awards. The book has just been nominated Number 2 in the Top 10 Favorite Books of 2009 for Kids, Tweens and Teens in The Children’s & Teens Book Connection.
About the Author: Fiona Ingram (B.A., Hons. (Natal), M.A., (Wits)) was born and educated in South Africa. Her interest in ancient history, mystery, and legends, and her enjoyment of travel has resulted in The Secret of the Sacred Scarab, the first in her exciting children’s adventure series—Chronicles of the Stone. The first book was inspired by an actual trip the author took to Egypt with her two young nephews (then aged 10 and 12).
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Fiona has visited us at Authors Promoting Authors before!
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