Pepper Masalah and the temple of cats by Rosanne Hawke. Illus. by Jasmine Berry

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This short chapter book by Rosanne Hawke (ShahanaTaj and the Great Camel Trek) is number two in the Pepper Masalah series. The first was Pepper Masalah and the Flying Carpet and a third (Pepper Masalah and the Giant Bird set in Afghanistan) is due to be released in 2024. There is a short recap at the beginning of how the journey began but it doesn't give away the full story and with each book being a new adventure it doesn't matter if they are read out of order. Simple sentence structure and vocabulary as well as large typeface and a smattering of black and white illustrations make this perfect for young readers looking for something outside the usual spy/magic/friendship books aimed at this level of reader. At just 58 pages it is an approachable novel format for younger readers who are just getting used to some pages of full text. Some subject-specific language is included (embalm, mummification) as well as some Egyptian Arabic (and a word list at the back) and snippets of information about Ancient Egypt (speaks of hieroglyphs, cultural practices, etc). There are also some super interesting cat facts listed at the end.

Pepper Masalah is a mini-panther who lives with her human Zamir and his family on an olive farm in Australia. Zam's cultural heritage (it is revealed in the first book that his grandmother is from Kashmir) is hinted at but not explicit. The first book in the series told the story of when she and Zam were carried by magic carpet to the Arabian Peninsula. In this installment, they still haven't made it home yet - they are up on the magic carpet and convinced they will never make it back to the farm. A chance landing in the water reveals they are in Ancient Egypt, where cats are revered and the locals want to mummify Pepper. Can Zam work out a way to save her and get away? 

For kids hungry for books set in places outside of the usual ones we find written in English, those who enjoy adventure stories and a bit of magic and cat lovers this series will be a welcome find.

Themes: Adventure Stories, Ancient Egypt, Time Travel.

Nicole Nelson