Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Modern Wonders of the World: Suez Canal

Modern Wonders of the World: Suez Canal

Valerie Bodden
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 9 to 12
The Creative Company, 2006   ISBN: 978-1583414415

As early as four thousand years ago ancient Egypt’s pharaohs built a canal between the Red Sea and a branch of the Nile River. They, like the engineers of the future, wanted to be able to make it easy for traders to be able to take ships from the Mediterranean to the Orient. During the Roman occupation of Egypt a canal in this region was once again in use but it was later abandoned and it disappeared into the desert sands.

It was only in 1832 that a French diplomat and engineer, Ferdinand de Lesseps began to read about the ancient canal. He was excited at the prospect of reducing the journey between the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean by thousands of miles. Twenty years later he was finally in a position to take his ideas and make them a reality.

In 1854 de Lesseps took his plans to the Viceroy of Egypt who approved the plans at once. De Lesseps also had to get the British and the Ottomans to agree to the idea, and this was not an easy thing to do. To pay for the costly project de Lesseps decided to sell shares in the new Suez Canal Company and in 1859 construction began even though the Ottoman Empire had not yet given its permission.

Using local laborers, de Lesseps began to dig a narrow canal between five desert lakes – four of which were bone dry. Then in 1864 he was able to afford to bring in some heavy machinery and the work went faster. Towns and harbors were created along the length of the canal and beautiful green areas bloomed where there had only been barren desert before.

Finally, after ten years of hard work, the canal was finished and it was formally opened on November 17, 1869.

In this excellent title in the “Modern Wonders of the World” series the author not only describes how the Suez Canal came to be built but she also tells the story of what happened to the canal after it was opened, and how it influenced the history of Egypt and other countries as well. Beautiful annotated photographs can be found throughout the book and every double page spread includes an informative little box which contains an interesting tit bit of background information.