The Egypt Game – Zilpha Keatley Snyder

About the Book:

April and Melanie have something in common; they both love mind-games, playing with their imaginations and making ordinary things magical.  So when they happen upon the bust of Nefertiti, they know they have stumbled across something special.  They start The Egypt Game, full of temples, oracles, ceremonies, and fun.  As weeks and months pass, other kids become involved with Egypt, too, making the game even better.  But when a murderer is stalking around the neighbourhood, the fate of Egypt becomes questionable.  How will they be able to play if they can’t even go outside?  And how safe is Egypt, when it resides in secret outside of an alley?

My Thoughts:

The Egypt Game is a fun book.  It’s a piece of realistic fiction, but it’s has slight elements of fantasy through the children’s play.  What I think I liked most about this story is that the kids were truly real kids.  They were full of gross and creepy ideas for their play, like pricking their fingers and pulling out their hair as sacrifices for Egyptian gods, and having a long funeral procession for one of the children’s dead pet.  I remember being around that age and making my own potion with a friend where we pricked our fingers to add our blood to the mix, and I thought it was great that this book really shows what kids are like, instead of making everything light-hearted and innocent like some children’s stories do.

I was also appreciative of the serious nature of the murderer in the neighbourhood.  Not only does the book clearly state there is a murder, it’s the murder of a child, and it’s not the first one that happens.  I liked that these children had to deal with such a scary and serious issue, as again it’s something many children’s book do not touch on.

I think my biggest problem with this book was that I felt misguided by the title.  I tried not to read too much about the book before I read it, so going in I thought there would be more fantasy than there was.  And, in fact, as I read the book I kept waiting for it to pick up the pace, and for something big to happen.  Eventually, I thought the premise of the book was going to be that the Egypt kids would discover and catch the murderer, and while this is vaguely similar to what happens in the book, it didn’t happen in anyway I would have thought it to.  Once I understood that the book was really down-to-earth and that nothing hugely exciting was going to happen, I enjoyed the book just fine.  I would have appreciated it more if I knew these things going into the reading, though.

All in all, this is just a fun book.  Stay away from recommending this as a fantasy read, but for kids who like Egypt and for kids that maybe like both fantasy and realistic fiction, this is a good read.

Rating: ***1/2 

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