Michelle Isenhoff

The Golden Goblet, by Eloise Jarvis McGraw, Book Review

golden goblet

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Published in 1961 and receiving Newbery honors the next year, The Golden Goblet still rates high on any reading list decades later. Within, young Ranofer wants nothing more than to become a goldsmith in ancient Egypt, but after his father’s death, he must live with his vile half-brother, Gebu, who apprentices him as a stonecutter. After finding an exquisite goblet hidden among Gebu’s clothing, Ranofer becomes convinced that his brother has been robbing tombs in the great Valley of the Kings. But how can he prove it without getting himself killed?

Ranofer makes for a captivating character. Surrounded by wicked men, he keeps his integrity. Among devastating circumstances, he maintains hope. He is the quintessential underdog, and I cheered for him accordingly. Eventually, two companions befriend him, young Heqet and the Ancient, who demonstrate loyalty and friendship Ranofur has never known. As Ranofu struggles to reshape his life to realize his dreams, this bewildered boy matures into a thoughtful, courageous young man who is willing to risk his life for what he believes is right.

Ms. McGraw also paints a stunning portrait of the land, its culture, and its religion. For this reason, The Golden Goblet would make a valuable companion to a social studies unit on Egypt. But it would be equally valuable in any children’s literature class, as she writes with rare artistry. Her prose is fluent and poetic, she’s a master of dialogue, and she chooses wonderfully rich and period-appropriate word pictures. For me, this richness adds tremendously to the pleasure of reading.

While The Golden Goblet successfully held my interest, and it ends with a spine-tingling conclusion, it took a great many slow pages to develop in the middle. Not every reader would stick it out. But in my opinion, it’s worth pushing through. Ms. McGraw has made ancient Egypt come to life and given us a delightfully innocent, lovable, unforgettable hero who, in my favorite scene of the book, is asked by the queen what he would most like in the world and asks for… a donkey!

Recommended for ages 10+.

The Golden Goblet, by Eloise Jarvis McGraw, Book Review

18 thoughts on “The Golden Goblet, by Eloise Jarvis McGraw, Book Review

  1. I’m glad to hear the story has stood the test of time. It sounds an interesting read, and of course, stories were slower paced in the past than we expect now. Thanks for the review.

  2. I think this one is long gone. When I started at my library twenty years ago, there was a big collection of prebound Newbery winners that were about ten years old. I’m not sure any are left– they got really stinky and fragile. I’m always looking for more on ancient Egypt but will stick with the Jill Rubalcaba titles.

    1. I had to order mine through the library loan. Someone had one somewhere. It’s definitely dated, but I still love the oldies.

  3. Welcome to MMGM! Thanks for your thoughts on this intriguing story I have not had a chance to read. I’m going to track down a copy as I enjoy anything connected with Egypt. I also will forward your review to someone who teaches a unit on Egypt.

    1. My kids really enjoyed this one when we did a homeschool unit on Egypt. Of course, they liked anything that got them out of “real” school work. 🙂

  4. This sounds like a fascinating book—it’s always neat to take a dive into older books, especially when the Newbery has already certified them as good! It’s great that you pushed through the slower parts and ended up enjoying it. Thanks so much for the great review, Michelle!

  5. I would have been 10 when this book came out and I’ve never heard or read it. The story would be relevant in today’s market. I love stories about Egypt. Will try to track down a copy.

    By the way, my great granddaughter is receiving the last two books in your Recompense series today. Will see her at Christmas, but she begged me to send them in advance so she could get started. (I usually do send them ahead because she devours books and she really has loved this series.)

    1. Thank you, Pat. I’m so glad! I recently had a 40yo non-reading guy whose wife nagged him to read book one. He told me he did so reluctantly, then read every book in the series in a matter of days. Stories like yours and his always make my day!

  6. It’s interesting to hear about a book written so long ago and find that it still holds up. It sounds like a fun book that kids would like a lot and teachers would as well. Thanks for telling me about it. I’ve never heard of it.

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