Celebrate the 50th anniversary of The Egypt Game!
Back in sixth grade, I read a book called The Egypt Game, written by Zilpha Keatley Snyder. It was part of our studies on ancient Egypt which included making our own paper mache mummies. At the time, making the mummies was the best part of learning about ancient Egypt. All of these years later, I still remembered the book and the paper mache mummy project that I decided to re-read the book and review it here on Universal Monsters Universe during “March of Mummies” 2017.
The opening of The Egypt Game introduces readers to a young girl named April Hall. April is the daughter of an actress and is always moving from neighborhood to neighborhood. April is sent to live with her grandmother in California while her mother is on a long movie shoot. At first, April does not like being with her grandmother. She misses her mother and does not seem to relate to her grandmother. April walks the neighborhood and stops into an old antique shop. The owner is an elderly man who is a loner, which has produced many stories, both good and bad, about him throughout the neighborhood. When she gets back to the apartment, her grandmother informs April she set her up to meet one of the other girls in the apartment named Melanie who enjoys everything Egypt. April and Melanie, with her brother Marshall in tow, get close and create the Egypt Game. However, the deeper they get into the game and the more people they invite, the stranger and sometimes more dangerous, things get.
The Egypt Game is a great book for junior high and older. It is more than just a story about kids pretending and playing games after school. It is a story about finding your way around a different place and different people. April is a girl who did not have friends because she moved around with her mother and did not want to be with her grandmother. Yet, when she meets Melanie and Marshall and “travels to Egypt” with them, she begins to open up to others and make friends. She and Melanie even welcome Elizabeth to the group. Elizabeth was like April in the sense she had just moved into the neighborhood and did not know anyone. It is also a story about first impressions and seeing a person for who they really are. Two boys, Toby and Ken, discover the girls and the game on Halloween when they catch them sneaking away from a trick-or-treat group. The girls are apprehensive because the boys have a reputation in school as pranksters and troublemakers. However, they get right into the game and even expand it with new ideas. The antique shop owner, known as The Professor, was always looked at awkwardly by those around him and was made even worse when a horrific crime is committed and goes unsolved for the whole summer. He loses business and is shunned by the neighborhood. In the end, he did not commit the crime and the kids befriend him.
The Egypt Game is as fun to read now as it was when I was in sixth grade. Zilpha Keatley Snyder, who sadly passed away in 2014, won the Newbery Honor Award for this book and it is clear to see why. It is a great read and a story kids can relate to in one way or another. There were plenty of references to ancient Egypt including the gods Thoth and Set and a bust of Nefertiti to spur young minds into learning more about the subject. The book has held up for fifty years and I forsee it holding up for fifty years more. The book is available online at sites such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
(Joe Grodensky – @JoeGrodensky)