As author of the children's book series, "Horace j. Edwards and the Time Keepers," it's no surprise that history was William Meyer's favorite subject while attending Detroit Country Day School with a "host of amazing history teachers."
The first book in the series, "The Secret of the Scarab Beetle," follows the time-traveling adventures of sixth-grader Horace Edwards from Niles, Michigan to ancient Egypt as he uncovers the mystery of his grandfather's death and his strange inheritance. The second book, "The Search for the Lost Prophecy," brings the adventure to 1920's Detroit and The Scarab Club in the city's cultural and historic center.
Meyer, who works as a history teacher in New York state, said the inspiration for the books goes back to his own grandfather's passion for ancient Egypt and the history classes he had at Detroit Country Day.
"I love teaching ancient Egypt," he said. "My passion for it goes back to my grandfather. He was an engineer at Cadillac, and he took a trip to Egypt when I was in first grade. He came back and presented his trip to my class with slides. I was hooked."
When his mother dug up one of his third-grade projects on Egyptian hieroglyphics, the idea for the first book began to take shape.
"I shared the idea with my wife. We were in this taxi cab, and when I got done telling her, she turned to me and said, 'Don't tell anyone else about that story. It's good.'"
From there, Meyer started doing his own research and investigating the farm where his grandfather grew up. He also began finding strange connections between Detroit and ancient Egypt, such as the ceramic scarab logo embedded over the front entrance of the club designed by sculptor Horace Colby. In ancient Egypt, the scarab beetle was a symbol of immortality.
"The last big piece that floored me was when I went to Woodlawn Cemetery. There is an Egyptian mausoleum that is the Dodge brothers' tomb," he said. "I thought Detroit was the perfect setting for a kid’s book."
While Meyer said he had already begun writing the first book before he first visited The Scarab Club, he later incorporated a tree mural at the club into the book as the time portal at Horace's grandfather's farm. For Meyer, the connections are an added bonus to a subject he already loves.
"The Egypt thing is an easy sell," he said, "but the Detroit thing is a surprise that comes at the end of the meal."
The book series, which is published by Sleeping Bear Press in Ann Arbor, marks a sort of return to Michigan for Meyer, who left the state when he was about 25, after doing his doctoral work at the University of Michigan. He said he still returns regularly to the Detroit area to visit family. Those visits now include promoting his book series.
"The reception has been great," he said. "I have gone to over 60 schools, and last year in March, the (Detroit Institute of Arts) for reading month had over 1,200 students attend a talk. I was able to do some work with the book and tie it into the museum. I'll be coming back this spring to do a bus tour in Detroit of sites in the second book. Those will be a lot of fun."