PERSONAL: Female. Education: Studied archaeological illustration at Egyptian Department of Metropolitan Museum of Art.
CAREER: Author and technical illustrator for archeologists; illustrator for Egyptian Department at Brooklyn Museum of Art, Brookly, NY
(Reteller and illustrator) The Shipwrecked Sailor: An Egyptian Tale with Hieroglyphs, Atheneum Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 2000.
(And illustrator) How the Amazon Queen Fought the Prince of Egypt (for children), Atheneum Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 2005.
SIDELIGHTS: As a technical illustrator for archaeologists, Tamara Bower has worked at museums and for excavations in Egypt, Turkey, and California. Her professional life grew from a childhood interest in hieroglyphics and ancient Egypt, which has also inspired her to share this love through books written and illustrated for children. Trained in the Egyptian Department of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, her work experience includes making illustrations for the Brooklyn Museum of Art and assisting archaeologists from the University of Pennsylvania.
Bower's first book, The Shipwrecked Sailor: An Egyptian Tale with Hieroglyphs, is based on an Egyptian papyrus scroll from the nineteenth century B.C.E. It tells the story of a sailor who is the sole survivor of quest for the gold of Nubia. He lands on the "Island of the Soul," where he is befriended by an enormous serpent with gold and jeweled scales. This creature correctly predicts that the sailor will be rescued and gives him precious gifts. The story and its setting are amplified by illustrations in deep, rich colors, hieroglyphs that correspond to phrases in the text, a map, and a section explaining hieroglyphics.
Reviewers considered the book to be exceptional in several ways. Writing in School Library Journal, Louise L. Sherman judged that its greatest value is "as a peek into ancient Egyptian folklore, art, and language." Malikah Dada Lumumba and Kelly Ellis commented in Black Issues Book Review that this "beautiful story" was notable for showing "the brown people of Egypt in their true dark hues."
How the Amazon Queen Fought the Prince of Egypt also retells an ancient story that survives on a papyrus scroll. Queen Serpot is the leader of the Amazons, a group of women warriors who live without men. When she learns that her country is going to be invaded by Egyptian and Assyrian soldiers, Serpot sends her sister Ashteshyt to the invaders' camp disguised as a man. The information she gathers there allows the Amazons to defeat their attackers. The conflict ends with Serpot and the Egyptian prince Pedikhons in one-on-one combat that lasts for many hours. The prince discovers that the queen is very much his equal and the fight ends with both declaring their love for each other. The book's paneled illustrations include details about a soldier's life, such as working on chariots and praying at the shrine of Khonsu. The simple line drawings also introduce readers to the artistic conventions of the period. As in her earlier book, Bower provides hieroglyph versions of parts of the text. Endnotes give information on the story's source as well as associated gods and myths.
Bower's faithful adaptation is fun and informative, according to reviewers. In School Library Journal, for example, Patricia D. Lothrop remarked that "Hours of educational pleasure are pretty much guaranteed" by a volume she deemed "exceedingly handsome." A Publishers Weekly critic described the book as "a strong introduction to ancient Egyptian culture and mythology."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Black Issues Book Review, November, 2000, Malikah Dada Lumumba and Kelly Ellis, review of The Shipwrecked Sailor: An Egyptian Tale with Hieroglyphs, p. 80.
Booklist, November 1, 2000, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of The Shipwrecked Sailor, p. 528.
Publishers Weekly, May 9, 2005, review of How the Amazon Queen Fought the Prince of Egypt, p. 70.
School Library Journal, October, 2000, Louise L. Sherman, review of The Shipwrecked Sailor, p. 145; March, 2005, Patricia D. Lothrop, review of How the Amazon Queen Fought the Prince of Egypt, p. 206.