“The Curse of the Mummy: Uncovering Tutankhamun’s Tomb” by Candace Fleming

c.2021, Scholastic $18.99 / $25.99 Canada 287 pages

It’s very dark underground.

Without a flashlight, you can’t see a thing – but that’s okay; you might not really want to see what’s there anyhow. The silence is loud; it’s cold and probably wet there, too, so you’ll want a jacket if you go subterranean. As in the new book “The Curse of the Mummy: Uncovering Tutankhamun’s Tomb” by Candace Fleming, bundle up tight.

Some thirty-three hundred years ago, in a quiet Egyptian desert valley, a king was sent off to a dazzling afterlife. Only a trusted few were supposed to know where Tutankhamun was buried, but history shows that someone spilled the secret: in years to come, thieves broke into the tomb and stole some of the riches that went underground with the Boy King.

Royal priests tried to keep looters away, with little success – until the year that “something unusual happened”: heavy rains caused the valley to flood, and Tutankhamun’s tomb seemingly “vanished.”

But it wasn’t forgotten entirely. Over centuries, as the tombs of other Egyptian royalty were looted by raiders and soldiers from other countries, Tutankhamun’s name was mentioned but he was never found. He lay in peace until the early 1900s.

George Edward Stanhope Molyneux Herbert, Fifth Earl of Carnarvon had scads of money and a great interest in Egyptian antiquities. He was happy to pay workmen to dig in Egypt’s sand, but sadly, nothing more than trinkets were ever found. By 1908, Carnarvon knew that an expert was needed and Howard Carter came highly recommended.

And for good reason: Carter was a man obsessed. He was sure he knew where Tutankhamun and his riches were, and he and Carnarvon waited patiently to go there, to retrieve what would be an incredible trove.

And yet….

There were rumors. Some said Tutankhamun’s tomb was cursed. Psychics said that the dead had spoken and the treasure must remain undisturbed. Horrible things would happen to anyone who entered the tomb.

Did the curse begin with Carnarvon himself?

Many – including most scientists – say no, that people involved in the discovery and opening of Tutankhamun’s tomb died of unrelated causes. Although, inside “The Curse of the Mummy,” author Candace Fleming sure does raise the hairs on the back of a kid’s neck.

It’s an exciting tale for any age, really – and as if the story of the ancient burial of the king isn’t mysterious enough, Fleming adds to the edginess with the thrilling (yet frustrating!) discovery of the tomb and all its chambers. Young archaeologists especially will be riveted by it, and by the scientifically-presented, kid-friendly follow-up on what happened to Tutankhamun’s body in the last century.

But the real appeal of this book? It’s right there in the title and Fleming doesn’t disappoint. Drop-in pages with whispers of curses will keep kids enthralled, and they may send young readers ages 8-to-12 on the hunt for more. If your child has seen the exhibit, aims to be an archaeologist, or loves good scares, “The Curse of the Mummy” is a book they won’t want to keep under wraps.