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The Golden Goblet

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Ranofer struggles to thwart the plottings of his evil brother, Gebu, so he can become master goldsmith like their father in this exciting tale of ancient Egyptian mystery and intrigue.
Newbery Honor Book

248 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 1961

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About the author

Eloise Jarvis McGraw

32 books270 followers
Eloise Jarvis McGraw was an author of children's books. She was awarded the Newbery Honor three times in three different decades, for her novels Moccasin Trail (1952), The Golden Goblet (1962), and The Moorchild (1997). A Really Weird Summer (1977) won an Edgar Award for Best Juvenile Mystery from the Mystery Writers of America. McGraw had a very strong interest in history, and among the many books she wrote for children are Greensleeves, Pharaoh, The Seventeenth Swap, and Mara, Daughter of the Nile.

McGraw also contributed to the Oz series started by L. Frank Baum, writing with her daughter Lauren Lynn McGraw (Wagner) Merry Go Round in Oz (the last of the Oz books issued by Baum's publisher) and The Forbidden Fountain of Oz, and later writing The Rundelstone of Oz on her own. The actual writing of the books was done entirely by Eloise; Lauren made story contributions significant enough for Eloise to assign her co-authorship credit.

She lived for many years in Portland, Oregon before dying in late 2000 of "complications of cancer".

McGraw was married to William Corbin McGraw, who died in 1999. They had two children, Peter and Lauren.


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5 stars
2,628 (30%)
4 stars
3,145 (36%)
3 stars
2,011 (23%)
2 stars
562 (6%)
1 star
358 (4%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 760 reviews
Profile Image for Ruben.
104 reviews44 followers
July 25, 2009
I really liked this book when I was 11, and I really liked this book twenty-one years later. Somehow Eloise Jarvis McGraw makes Ranofer, the main character, easily relatable without turning him into a kid that thinks, talks and acts like a twentieth century American kid who happens to be living in ancient Egypt. To me, that's one of the most annoying things about historical fiction: the author tries to make the main characters more likable by making them just like us, no matter what century or continent they lived in.

I especially respect the level of writing here. This is a pretty advanced children's book, with detailed descriptions of Egyptian life (especially goldsmithing and stonemasonry). The vocabulary and pacing is challenging, too. The mystery that Ranofer and his friends try to solve is a rather grueling process, one that some people will call boring but I call deliberate. This is clearly a well-researched, engaging and intelligent novel.
Profile Image for Luisa Knight.
2,771 reviews736 followers
November 8, 2022
I remember when my mom read this one aloud to us - we simply could not put it down! A great option for an action-packed, family read aloud.



Children's Bad Words
Mild Obscenities & Substitutions - 5 Incidents: stupid

Name Calling - 40 Incidents: The pig, the son of Set the Devil, Accursed One, Useless One, scum, Worthless One, stupid, Fatherless One, Homeless One, ingrate, brats, Slow-witted One, Spawn of Crocodiles, Tardy One, idler, donkeyhead, Imbecile, fool, lazy clod, son of a jackal, riffraff, Cursed Ones, Mad One, Rash One

Religious Profanity - 23 Incidents: By Amon, Osiris the Merciful forbid it, Thoth’s mercy, as Maat is my witness, “For the sake of Ptah the Bearded!”, Great Ptah’s whiskers, Holy Mother Mut, "Why in the name of Amon", Oh, Mother of Amon, Great Bast’s whiskers, Hathor’s mercy

Religious & Supernatural - 10 Incidents: Mentions khefts (evil spirits) and bas (good spirits) throughout the book. None appear. Describes Egyptian beliefs about the afterlife and burying the dead with their treasures. “The gods would smile on him, and Osiris himself, Osiris the Merciful, would speak out of the wind to him and direct all his affairs.” “He fingered his amulet nervously, hoping it had protected him, but he knew it had no power over the Evil Eye. That required a different amulet, the ouzait,...” A boy gets a good idea while he sleeps and credits it to a god, then thinks it was his father’s spirit and so visits his tomb. “Because of these wicked ones and their thievery, the ba of some long-dead pharaoh was now starving and destitute in the Land of the West …” Such phrases as “praise be to the gods” are said in the book. It explains the superstition regarding the khefts coming out at night. “His child has the falling sickness. Rekh fashioned a little amulet … so the priests might say their spells over it.” A boy “who loved his pharaoh and the gods of Egypt.”

Attitudes/Disobedience - 10 Incidents: Lying: a boy does not disclose his real reason for being at the marsh. A boy hates his mean half-brother for making him a thief and a coward. A boy is offered a fig but because of his pride, he lies, saying he doesn’t like figs (he does though and eventually takes it). A boy wants to bring a stone “down with a crack” on his mean boss’s head. A boy says “Curse if you like. There’s no one to hear but me, and I don’t mind.” A boy has no food but lies saying he already ate. He wonders why he hadn’t thought of this “excuse.” He then gets into a fight with his friend because of his pride. A boy lies to his half brother (so that he’s not suspicious and can catch him in his thievery). A boy lies to his friends, not telling them he has been spying on his brother’s ways. A boy lies to his friends about where his half brother is going. A boy lies to his friend, saying he’s only curious when he actually wants information to help him catch his half brother.

Conversation Topics - 5 Incidents: Wine is mentioned throughout the book. Lying: A boy is asked who beats him and he says “It is nothing, no one!” (his half brother is his guardian and beats him often. The half brother is the bad guy of the book). Mentions barley-beer a few times throughout the book. A man is drunk. Mentions gambling at hounds-and-jackals.

Parent Takeaway
The morals in the story are pretty black and white. There is a half brother that is a villain. He beats his young ward. When the boy finds out that he has been unknowingly assisting his half brother with thievery, he decides to be brave and makes a plan to stop him. Most of the lying is done by the boy, as he chooses not to disclose his plan about stopping his half brother (which was unnecessary as his friends wanted to and agreed to help him).

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Profile Image for Mya Morris.
2 reviews
January 27, 2016
Exciting and thrilling, The Golden Goblet is by far one of the most exciting books I have ever read. Even though I read it a year ago just for fun, it still gave me the goosebumps because of how descriptive the author is. When reading this book, for the second time, i realize how slow it is in the beginning and I feel like I get it a lot more when we read it together. Another thing is that I don't really think that the title matches the book and I think it should be called Ranofer's Life or something.
Profile Image for Cindy Rollins.
Author 22 books2,022 followers
August 29, 2018
This was not the first time I read this out loud. I liked the book but my student loved it. He liked it much better than its companion Mara, Daughter of the Nile by the same author.
9 reviews28 followers
October 21, 2010
The rising action of this novel took 14 out of 16 chapters. Once the climax was reached, I found it to be a bit boring. The main character is chased rather quickly through a tomb and then escapes (low suspense during the actual chase). The resolution was wrapped up in the last chapter and I felt letdown after following his awful life, we do not know what happens to his tormentor (only implied). I had to be creative to engage students in the story, thankfully they were motivated by ancient Egypt itself. The vocabulary is very rich but the Egyptian names are difficult to pronounce and caused difficulty for 7th grade students as they focused on (mis)pronunciations. My students did not relate to Ranofer, the main character, since he was an orphan mistreated by his half brother but they did sympathize with him. I do believe the book shares a lot of Ancient Egypt history in an interesting way (versus a history book). Overall I felt I struggled through this novel as it did not keep my interest. I would most likely not chose to read this book with my students again, regardless of the cross-curricular content with social studies.
Profile Image for Cheryl.
9,318 reviews399 followers
October 4, 2019
Very readable & modern. I could easily imagine it being published now instead of half a century ago. There's even some humor. And a fantastic (yes, that's the exact word I mean) ending. I mean to say, don't get your hopes up that it's the best book ever, but considering how much about ancient Egypt is in school curricula and also fascinates people, I'm surprised this isn't more widely read.

Profile Image for Laura Slusar.
12 reviews3 followers
November 25, 2014
Gebu was such an asshole that I couldn't even deal with it. And Ranofer always needed chapstick. (The author kept saying that he had to lick his lips before he said anything.). I liked the parts about the marketplaces and golden scarabs, though. It made me want to go to the big flea market that takes place one county away from me. I disliked Ranofer so much that my 11-year old self used my new White-Out Pen to deface the cover of the whole book and make Ranofer's eyes look really messed up. Then I handed it down to my younger brother, who also calls this book a "piece of garbage" because we discussed this 10 minutes ago. We are 25 and 26 right now.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
122 reviews4 followers
August 14, 2012
This book is set in Thebes in around 1400 BC, right during the reign of the Ancient Egyptians. It goes in-depth into the daily life of the craftspeople and artisans of Ancient Egypt through Ranofer’s experiences as a porter at the goldsmith shop and as an apprentice at the stonecutting shop. Ranofer also makes observations about the daily life of the Egyptians, from the importance of the Nile to the harvest of papyrus to the food they eat. It also does a good job of realistically integrating the Egyptians’ religious beliefs and superstitions. Ranofer is constantly making reference to the different gods the Ancient Egyptians worshipped in the way that the people of that day would having, noticing omens from the gods or wishing the gods would do certain things to bless his life. He also is a strong believer of superstitions and is even crippled by fear several times because of his beliefs.

Mummification and death are also discussed in context with how the Egyptians would have dealt with it, which is what most children are most familiar with, and most interested in, when it comes to Ancient Egypt. Also, the plot is centered on tomb robbing, which we know through archaeological evidence did actually happen. Archeologists have found evidence of real secret passages that were built into tombs in the Valley of the Kings. And many of the tombs archaeologists have found were desecrated by tomb robbers at some point. So, the plotline is based on historical knowledge, which helps clearly illustrate how things really were in those times and gives the reader a vivid idea of what it would have been like to live in Ancient Egypt. Overall, this is a great book for older children who are interested in Egypt or enjoy mysteries, and I highly recommend it.
Profile Image for Emily.
2 reviews
December 28, 2012
This is one of the worst books I have ever read. If I could I would give it 0 stars. The book drags on and never becomes engaging. You sit there reading waiting for something mildly good to happen but it never does. Don't waist your time reading this book. The only reason I had to read it because it was assigned for me to read in school and everybody reading it at school found it to be the most boring book ever too!!!!
Profile Image for Carrie ReadingtoKnow.
383 reviews23 followers
October 29, 2021
I really enjoy Eloise Jarvis McGraw's writing. I think we must have shared a similar taste in both history and books. The Moorchild still ranks as my favorite, but this book about a young boy in Egypt who is apprenticed to his evil half brother, is quite engaging.

Highly recommended for a piece of middle grade historical fiction.
Profile Image for Keturah Lamb.
Author 3 books45 followers
March 7, 2023
*Listened to audio book*

For younger readers. I enjoyed that it was about ancient Egypt. The plot was rather straightforward and simple, the setting being the only thing that really made it stand out. Reminded me a bit of Johnny Tremain, and some other such story I can't quite remember the name of. Would give this book to young readers and they would love it.
Profile Image for Alfred Haplo.
286 reviews45 followers
May 22, 2022
Should be on every kid’s shelf. Sometime ago, I came across Eloise Jarvis McGraw, a prolific author of children’s fiction and a recipient of multiple Newberry Honors. On my shelf today (no kid here, but kid at heart?), I have a handful of her books including The Golden Goblet set in ancient Egypt. Ranofer, 13 years old and maltreated by his step-brother, won me over with his plight and a doggone stubbornness to not give up. My impatience somewhat outpaced the build-up towards story climax, but the slow middle might work for those who like their suspense cooked long. At its core, the story was about courage, and friendship, and tenacity, and pride in one’s craft. Goldsmithing featured vividly in the story, and I took delight in soaking in the experience through Ranofer’s eyes. Though The Golden Goblet is over 60 years old, I think it holds up well for any avid middle-grade reader and their much older counterparts.

3.5 stars rounded up because Heqet, friend of Ranofer, made me laugh with his droll analogies:

On offering his hungry friend a fig, "It will quiet your rumblings, as the man said when he tossed his right leg to the crocodile."

On handling a tough task, "Simple if you know the trick of it, remarked the vulture as she laid a falcon egg."

On not paying attention, "I fear my mind is not on my work, as the worm said when the lark bit its head off."

On perspective, "Though of course we both have our natural beauty, as the hippopotamus said to the rat."
January 27, 2016
I really liked the book but the beginning wasn't my favorite because it didn't really get my attention. After the fifth chapter, I really started getting into the book. When I read about Ranofer, Heqet, and the Ancient spying on Gebu and whenamon, and them telling one another one what they heard that day. To read the beginning was hard because the author left us at a cliff hanger saying " At sight Heqet gave a shout and flung up one hand, and the Ancient started hobbling toward him as fast as he could come. Ranofer gripped his donkey's rope and began to run." I wished she had told us what happened next like Ranofer made a living as a goldsmith, Gebu went to jail fro all the bad fthings he has done to his brother and to his town. Finally I think this story was about how perseverance is a great trait to have because Ranofer had that trait in him and he got a donkey like he wanted and he stopped his brother froming steeling stuff from the Queen's parents tomb. Also friendship is a great trait to have because in this story without friends Ranofer would've never have been able to keep spying on Gebu and wenamon.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Kyler Bock.
4 reviews1 follower
February 1, 2016
I loved this book! I found it very interesting, it started out slow, but you have to give books time! Mrs, Bushkin, my English teacher, recommended this book to our class. The Golden Goblet started to get more and more interesting as I read on. The main characters in this book fitted their roles perfectly, Ranofer, one of the protagonists, was brave, determined, and kind. On the other hand, Gebu, the main antagonist, was very nasty! He was everything you would expect a villain to be, nasty. cruel and completely unfair. The author was incredibly descriptive, with every page turned I felt more indulged in the story. Interesting and intense, the plot kept me on the edge of my seat the whole story. The ending was a bit of a disappointment, but that is okay, I still enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend it!
Profile Image for Abby.
8 reviews
January 27, 2016
Have you ever wondered what life was like back in ancient Egyptian times? Twelve-year-old Ranofer knows all too well, and in some cases, he wished he didn't. The Golden Goblet by Eloise Jarvis McGraw is a fascinating story on a boy's point-of-view on ancient Egypt. This book was well written, and for sure a page-turner, full of suspense. Although the beginning was a little slow, some parts of The Golden Goblet just won't let you put it down, and for all the right reasons. At these certain parts, the book is very intense, and is a perfect example of what the beginning is missing. This book is a for sure recommendation for the high-level reader in you,
Profile Image for Miles Atkinson.
1 review6 followers
January 27, 2016
The Golden Goblet, by Eloise Jarvis McGraw was a fantastic book. Beautifully and elegantly written, the author used such wonderful descriptions that made the book that much better. While reading this book with my class, I enjoyed the action and suspense that the author offered. I would definitely rate this book five out of five, it was such a fun book to read, I wish there was a sequel.
1 review14 followers
January 27, 2016
This book was fairly interesting with many cliff hangers and good vocabulary. But, the downfall was many problems without a suitable solution. Since I like pleasing endings, this book left me unamused.
Adventurous and edgy, this book is a page turner that grabs your attention, but the beginning is a bit of a bore. Although, it is a book you need to try once in your life.
Profile Image for Dianna.
1,869 reviews33 followers
June 14, 2022
This book is SO GOOD! It's a shame that my local library system didn't have it, but now I'm glad I've bought it because I am sure to revisit it often. Fans of ancient Egypt, historical fiction, or just really good stories: this one is worth seeking out.

Content: the main character is beaten by his guardian. Criminals are executed. Not graphic. Age 10+.
25 reviews
September 25, 2018
I wish I could give this book more than 5 stars! I read it aloud with my kids, we finished two weeks sooner than we were supposed to because we truly couldn’t bring ourselves to stop reading it. We were sad when it was done because we felt as if that meant we had to say goodbye to friends.
Profile Image for Lynn.
692 reviews
October 1, 2020
I read this aloud to my 10-year-old so, and he really enjoyed it. In his words, "It was like a real book, but you didn't notice you were learning things about ancient Egypt, too."
Profile Image for Linda Martin.
Author 1 book70 followers
April 11, 2023
Ranofer was young when his father died leaving him an orphan. He unfortunately had to go live with his cruel and selfish half-brother. Ranofer wanted to be an apprentice goldsmith but his brother had other ideas, and controlled him.

It was a sad and pathetic situation, but Ranofer was such a nice young boy and had a few nice friends as well. I enjoyed reading this book because of Ranofer's character, though sometime he and his friends did things I considered risky business.

This is the third book I've read by Eloise Jarvis McGraw. I think highly of all of them. The other two were The Moorchild and Moccasin Trail.
Profile Image for Jenny.
1,350 reviews21 followers
November 4, 2022
I picked The Golden Goblet for our October audiobook to go along with our fall history (Story of the World Volume 1). I remember enjoying it as a kid, (though I didn't love it the way I adored Mara Daughter of the Nile) but I couldn't remember anything specific about the plot.

The girls were all enthralled by the plot and a little stressed out by the cliffhangers. The writing quality holds up to an adult reading (which isn't always the case when you return to childhood favorites as an adult), and it was a delightful addition to Morning Time.
137 reviews1 follower
March 24, 2021
Sam’s review...It was five stars. It was very good. I liked the mystery and the intrigue and how it was suspicious.

Angel’s review...I let Sam rate the book because his review gives a better picture for the target audience lol. I love the end of this book. However, I felt it dragged a little more than I remembered through the middle. I didn’t like how Ranofer constantly refused to trust Heqet and the Ancient. The last chapters really make the book though. Such an heartwarming ending.
Profile Image for Angela Boord.
Author 8 books89 followers
July 29, 2021
I just finished reading this book aloud to my 11 yo. I read it several years ago myself when I bought it for the kids' school, but I found I didn't remember much about it but the descriptions of goldsmithing. I think I liked reading it aloud better, and my 11 yo really loved this book. I think he probably liked it more for the intricate descriptions of Egyptian goldsmithing rather than the mystery involved, but even after the goldsmithing chapters were over, he was still on the edge of his seat for the rest of the book. I think that I most enjoyed McGraw's descriptive prose.
Profile Image for Julie Snider.
18 reviews2 followers
March 5, 2018
My mom read this book to me as a child, and I enjoyed it just as much as I remembered!
Profile Image for Rhea.
215 reviews75 followers
June 8, 2013
The good:

- The Golden Goblet has a terrific sense of place
- The research is very well-done, and is great for teaching kids about Ancient Egypt.
- The ending is exciting
- Hequet. He is awesome.
- The writing. A well-written story

The average:

- The storyline. It meanders a bit, but is satisfying
- Characters. Fairly typical, a bit flat, but ultimately likeable.

The not-so-good

- Extraneous details/scenes. Is it just me, or are all older children's books like this? This might not be so bad if those scenes contributed to character development, etc, but... many events seemed to be there for the sake of it. I guess they did help with a larger picture of Ancient Egypt, as a result made the plot boring. Which brings me to my next point...
- The first half of the story barely held my interest. Not enough plot to make up for length.
- Gebu. He was a cliched, flat character. He is your typical Mean Brother Who Is Mean Because He Is crossed with The Greedy Villian. Blah.
- Some of the details were innacurate. For example, when you eat very little, you aren't constantly hungry - your body gets used to your food intake, so you don't always feel starved

Anyways, a worthwhile read, if you are interested in Ancient Egypt. Despite my qualms, I enjoyed it.


- I admit I haven't read it, but Cleopatra's Moon is apparently a great book about Ancient Egypt. It has many positive reviews, and I think it's worth checking out. It is on my TBR list -I'll come back and update once I've read it (which likely isn't soon.)
Profile Image for Pat the Book Goblin .
423 reviews124 followers
February 3, 2018
Ancient Egypt has always interested me ever since I was a kid. I am shocked I never read this growing up. McGraw weaved an awesome tale. I loved how she really allowed the reader to see the culture of the ancient Egyptians through the eyes of her characters. She used many terms, authentic names, and an engaging plot to allow the reader to really peak into the past.

The book was set in the capital of Thebes (Waset) during the New Kingdom. Every generation faces new challenges and during this time pyramids became huge "ROB ME" signs for tomb raiders. Pharaohs needed to abandon the construction of pyramids and aim for a safe and more secure burial ground. The Valley of the Kings held the answer to the pharaoh's dilemma...or so they thought.

I immediately loved Ranofer, the protagonist, because his struggle was something I could identify with. We all strive for a dream, but sometimes it is taken away by fear and a series of unfortunate events. This tale is about finding the courage to take back the dream, even when danger and death loom around every dark passage.
Profile Image for Jake Lambdin.
1 review2 followers
January 27, 2016
With suspense and excitement, this book really kept me reading. The only part that i didn't enjoy about this book was the first six chapters. To be honest, it was one of the most boring six chapters I have ever read in my life. Yet, the chapters after that made up for all the boredom. Chapters seven and on were the most exciting chapters of my life. When Ranofer, the main protagonist, opens the chest to find a golden goblet, it was his dream come true. Ranofer could finally turn his evil stepbrother in, enabling him to live a abusive-free life and be apprenticed to a master goldsmith. As a reader, I could tell it wasn't going to be that easy. They have to go on one last journey to turn his step-brother in. This should definitely be a book all sixth-graders should read! I really enjoyed it!
Displaying 1 - 30 of 760 reviews

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