The Golden Goblet
Eloise Jarvis McGraw
Newbery Honor Book
The Golden Goblet is an older book that might be easy to overlook--but don't pass it by! Set in ancient Egypt, The Golden Goblet tells the story of young Ranofer, an orphan who desperately wants to be a goldsmith. It's not that he doesn't have talent; no, it's that his stepbrother (Gebu) is cruel and refuses to pay to apprentice him to a goldsmith. In fact, Ranofer is a lowly worker in a goldsmith's shop until he discovers Gebu's thievery. Once the deception is brought to the attention of the goldsmith, Ranofer is sent to work in the stonecutter's shop--a job that poses risk of harm to Ranofer's skilled artisan fingers in addition to its other hardships.
I really enjoyed the window into ancient Egyptian culture that McGraw gives us in this book. Their religious belief system, their superstitions, their cultural hierarchies and practices--all are presented clearly and without didacticism (you don't "feel" like you're learning--it's just part of the story). Ranofer is a great character and demonstrates tremendous bravery as well as perseverance. In the end, he is rewarded for his hard work. McGraw wrote Mara, Daughter of the Nile as well, which I hear is even better!
Book borrowed from a friend; cover image from goodreads