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BOOK REVIEW: The Weird Beard: Bab Sharkey and the Animal Mummies by Andrew Hansen and Jessica Roberts

| 13 August 2018 | Reply

BOOK REVIEW: Bab Sharkey and the Animal Mummies – The Weird Beard by Andrew Hansen and Jessica Roberts

Walker Books Australia
May 2018
Paperback, $14.99
Reviewed by Natalie Salvo

Children’s Fiction / Middle Grade / Action & Adventure


The Chaser’s Andrew Hansen, along with his designer/illustrator wife Jessica Roberts, joins a long list of Australian comedians who have written a children’s book (see: Dave Hughes, Peter Helliar, Anh Do, etc.). For Hansen and Roberts, their title is an adventure story starring a lonely, 12 year old boy named Bab Sharkey – his name inspired by the ancient gateway into Damascus called Bab Sharqi. The Weird Beard, the first in a new series, is a fun and complex story set in Egypt.

Now here was Bab, wrapped in bubbles, helping his mum dig for treasure in the sand.
He tried to feel excited about their treasure hunt. But as he looked out across the huge, empty desert, all he felt was loneliness.
“Mum, Egypt’s a hole,” he complained.
“Yes, Bab!” agreed his mum with a huge grin. “We dug a lovely hole, didn’t we?”
“No, Mum, I mean this place. How long do you plan to keep us in Egypt? You know, your books are cool and finding old stuff is neat, but I can’t make friends in mummy tombs! I’d have to be five thousand years old to find anyone my own age.”

This story starts many thousands of years ago with an ancient Pharaoh who has the clever name, the Unpharaoh. She is on the verge of death. But rather than die and be stuck in an afterlife where she’ll be forced to play second fiddle to the other deceased Pharaohs, she concocts a plan with her jackal slave, Cainus. Once the Unpharaoh dies it is Cainus’ job to feed her the smoothie of immortality and bring his master, the Unpharaoh back to life.

“Listen to me, Cainus. I’m old. My brilliant mind is going.” She gently stroked the shiny beard growing from the end of her chin. “Soon the Pharaoh’s Beard will choose a new Pharaoh to rule Egypt. When I die, I don’t want to stay in the Afterworld. There I’ll be powerless, a mere equal of the Pharaohs that passed on before me. They’ll want to be …friends.” She paused and shuddered at the thought.
“I’ll need to come back and rule here!” she cried. “I must be number one for eternity! So here is what you must do. After they bury me in my tomb, you sneak in and pour some of this smoothie down my throat. Use the rest on my animal slaves. It will bring us all back to life. Then I shall return to the city and rule Egypt forever!”

But there is a hitch. The role of the pharaoh is ultimately determined by whoever the ancient beard decides is the one. And after the Unpharaoh’s passing the beard is lost for several thousands of years. It is eventually discovered in modern times by 12 year old Bab Sharkey, the son of an archaeologist or an “ancient pot digger-upper,” as she is referred to here. The beard chooses Bab as the new Pharaoh of this lost, Egyptian city. The beard has the magical ability to transform into any shape the wearer chooses and there is a funny illustration of the different forms of beards including one with some plaits and a hipster variety.

“Okay, okay!” cried Bab. “I don’t want this thing, have it back” He grabbed the Beard and tried to give it to them, but it was totally attached. “I…I can’t get it off!”…
Scaler turned back to Bab with a toothy grin. “This means the flesh-boy is the new Pharaoh. The Beard has chosen him. He must be really clever.”
Prong gasped. “Hail, Pharaoh!” She couldn’t decide whether to curtsey or bow, so she swapped back and forth between the two.
“I’m not a Pharaoh,” said Bab. “I’m just a kid!”
“Yeah, all the Pharaohs said that,” Prong told him. “Except for one. She was a piece of work that lady.”

The Unpharaoh is angered by this turn of events. She has her slave steal a hair from Bab’s beard. She also forces Cainus to make more of the smoothie of immortality so that she can steal the Pharaoh crown from Bab Sharkey. But Bab Sharkey has two good mummy friends, an Ibis named Prong and a fish named Scaler. Will Bab Sharkey and his mates be able to outsmart the evil Unpharaoh or will things continue to remain unfair?

Fumbling through tools and jars, Cainus grabbed a chunk of resin and a pot of natron. Natron was a style of salt for drying out mummies…
At the end of the stone bench there was a huge blender built of copper and glass. Cainus hurled the natron, resin and lollipop into the blender, followed by the single Beard hair he’d plucked from Bab.
He pressed a button and the blender went VVVVVVVVMMMMMMM! The ancient items were instantly ground up into a grey, gluggy smoothie. A fresh Smoothie of Immortality!

This book is a fun story and readers will learn some things about Ancient Egypt. In the prose Roberts and Hansen use lots of puns, particularly for the names of characters and places- consider the hidden city of Mumphis and a cow’s name, Nostrildamus. This novel is filled with excellent black and white illustrations by Roberts who said in an interview that she was inspired by the animations from the Cartoon Network and the illustrations of Quentin Blake. The Weird Beard is also accompanied by a number of songs that the pair perform, which readers can access from their website,

Those readers who enjoy the choose-you-own-adventure series should enjoy this story. This book is designed for readers aged eight and over. Younger readers may find the structure of The Weird Beard and some of its elements a little tricky to understand and navigate. Older readers however, should enjoy Bab Sharkey’s story and the cool and smelly animal mummies that he befriends and learns courage from along the way. Side note- Hansen and Roberts were actually inspired to write this book after visiting a Cairo museum around a decade ago and learning that ancient Egyptians often had their pet animals mummified.

The Weird Beard is ultimately a light-hearted romp through Egypt for tweens. The story is an interesting – and at times a rather complicated one – that draws its inspiration from King Arthur’s Excalibur and the choose your own adventure series. The hijinks of Bab Sharkey and his friends make for one wacky, magical and wild ride that is basically all about a young boy going to Mumphis.

Category: Book Reviews, Other Reviews

About the Author ()

Natalie Salvo is a foodie and writer from Sydney. You can find her digging around in second hand book shops or submerged in vinyl crates at good record stores. Her website is at:

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