HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: The Egypt Game
Author: Zilpha Keatley Snyder
Illustrator: Alton Raible
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, reprinted in 2009
ISBN-13: 978-0808553038 (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0808553038 (Hardcover)
ISBN-13: 978-1416990512 (Paperback)
ISBN-10: 1416990518 (Paperback)
Language level: 2
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Reading level: Ages 10-14
Rating: **** 4 stars (GOOD)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Snyder, Zilpha Keatley. The Egypt Game (published in 1967 by Atheneum Publishers, New York City, NY; republished in 1986 by Dell Publishing, a division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group Inc., 1540 Broadway, New York City, NY 10036). Eleven-year-old April Hall, who often calls herself April Dawn, is sent by her actress-singer mother Dorothea, to live with her grandmother, Caroline Hall, in a California university town. In the same old California-Spanish apartment house called the Casa Rosada lives the family of Melanie Ross, who is April’s age. Melanie has a four-year-old brother Marshall. April and Melanie end up going to the same sixth-grade class at Wilson School and find that they share a love of all things related to ancient Egypt. In their neighborhood, they come across a deserted storage yard behind the A-Z Antiques store run by an elderly man usually known simply as “The Professor” in which they see some items which they use to begin playing “The Egypt Game,” in which they wear costumes, hold ceremonies, and work on a secret code. Marshall is brought along too.
Over the next several months, “The Egypt Game” comes to include Elizabeth Chung, a nine-year-old girl whose family also moves into the Casa Rosada, and Toby Alvillar and Ken Kamata, two boys in April and Melanie’s sixth-grade class. However, a couple of terrible murders happen in the neighborhood, one a little boy, and the other a little girl. Sometimes “the Egyptians” feel as if someone is watching them. And then some strange things begin to occur when the children are playing their game. Has “The Egypt Game” gone too far? Will something bad happen to them? Who is responsible for the murders? The Egypt Game, which was a Newbery Honor Book in 1968, is not a book that one would choose to accompany a study of ancient Egypt, like The Golden Goblet by Eloise Jarvis McGraw or Shadow Hawk by Andre Norton, but it is a neat story about some children who use their imaginations and have a lot of fun together.
I found it interesting that I had just read Hope Was There, in which a girl named Hope was dumped by her mother on her Aunt Addie, and now in this book April is dumped by her mother on her Grandmother Caroline. It is almost as if there was an epidemic in Newbery Honor Books of mothers abandoning their children. Otherwise, there is not much objectionable. A few common euphemisms (heck, gee, darn) occur, and April utters a couple of “words that Melanie wasn’t allowed to say,” but they are indicated simply by blanks. The children do disobey their parents a few times when they are not supposed to go out but do so to play their game. A belief in the possibility of reincarnation is stated at one point, and the names of some Egyptian idols are found. Parents of small children or children who are especially sensitive and may have bad dreams from seeing or hearing frightening things will want to know that one scene in particular is rather scary and intense, but for most young people it should be no problem. Overall, I felt that it was a worthwhile book.