Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder

Image from
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 1967

When 11 year old April moves to the Bay Area of California to live with her grandmother she isn’t expecting to stay very long, much less make any friends. But then she meets Melanie, the girl who lives upstairs, and both girls know they have found an imaginative kindred spirit. The new friends and Melanie’s younger brother Marshall create elaborate games of make-believe all around the neighborhood. But the most intriguing game of all is the mysterious and slightly scary Egypt Game. When the friends find a secret entrance into the abandoned backyard of the enigmatic junkshop owner, they just can’t walk away. Soon they combine their love of all things ancient Egyptian and their boundless imaginations to create the best game of all. Soon the Egypt Gang grows to include more friends and everyone is having a great time, until strange things start happening in the neighborhood. Not only that, eerie messages are found in their hidden land of Egypt. Is there someone watching them? Has the game gotten out of hand?

This story, equal parts mystery and friendship tale, celebrates the fun that can be had by giving yourself over to your imagination. Written and set in the 1960’s, the setting reflects a time when children had more freedom to explore their neighborhood without adult supervision. However, even though the story is firmly set in a time before cell phones and computers, young readers will easily relate to April and her friends. Readers will also fall in love with the multicultural cast of characters, including Chinese-American Elizabeth, Japanese-American Ken, and African-American Melanie and Marshall. The neighborhood is also extremely diverse, with families of all backgrounds and skin colors, but race doesn’t factor into the story. The casual and friendly tone of the text allows Snyder to use plot and character to move the story along at a nice clip. In the same manner, Snyder delves into April’s frustrating relationship with her single mother, an aspiring Hollywood actress. The addition of a neighborhood murderer and a spooky Halloween adventure add just enough scary suspense to hook readers.

Listen to a clip of the audiobook, narrated by Alyssa Bresnahan, or read an excerpt of the book and find yourself intrigued by the Egypt Game.

*The Egypt Gang does a lot of research on the ancient Egyptians and many real gods, goddesses, pharaohs, and queens are mentioned in the story. Bring in books on Egyptology and Egyptian mythology for kids to explore.

*Read more about the Egypt Gang in the sequel, The Gypsy Game.

*More books by Snyder:
            The Bronze Pen
            Cat Running
            The Changling
            The Headless Cupid
            The Treasures of Weatherby
            William S. and the Great Escape
            The Witches of Worm
            The Kane Chronicle series by Rick Riordan
            Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead
            The View from Saturday by E. L. Konigsburg

Age 9+ / Grade 4+


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