Lights on the Nile

Written by Donna Jo Napoli
Review by Nancy Castaldo

Lights on the Nile is the newest title in Donna Jo Napoli’s growing list of fairy tale retellings. Many of her previous novels offered complex young adult takes on well-known fairy/folktales, such as Zel, a retelling of Rapunzel, Spinners, a retelling of Rumplestilskin, and Bound, a retelling of Cinderella. However, this story is much less familiar to most readers. Napoli has moved into the middle grade arena (ages 8-12) to revisit fairyland and explain the origin of fairies themselves.

Lights on the Nile follows the adventures of Kepi, a young girl growing up in the countryside of 2530 BCE Egypt. After Kepi’s father is crippled in the construction of a pyramid, Kepi works diligently to help her family by gathering herbs for her father’s bread – until she and her pet baboon are kidnapped and taken by boat far away toward Egypt’s capital.

Readers will find themselves swept away by Napoli’s beautiful writing, rich setting, and fast-moving plot. The author’s research shines through, creating a rich world for readers to lose themselves in. We can taste the goat cheese given to Kepi, smell the odors of the Egyptian streets, and see the red sand of the desert. Napoli has melded this strong setting with a well-paced plot full of tension. Fans of Donna Jo Napoli will happily add this tale to their growing list of favorites.