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Book Review: The Egypt Game


Book Review: The Egypt Game

by Diane McCurdy

Author Zilpha Keatley Snyder lived most of her life in California. She died in San Francisco in 2014 of a stroke. But, in the seventies her husband was a professor at Sonoma State University and the family lived in the rural outskirts of Santa Rosa in a one-hundred year old farm house whose ambiance, I am sure, served as inspiration for some of the forty books she has written. Her most famous book is The Egypt Game which won the prestigious Newberry Award.

The Egypt Game begins when April, comes from Hollywood, and is basically pawned off onto her maternal grandmother while her show business mother tours. Resentful, lonely and a little affected with her long, false eyelashes, the 6th grader eventually makes friends with Melanie an African American whose dad is in graduate school. Melanie has a four year old brother named Marshall who is rarely without a stuffed octopus named “Security”. The last of the trio is Asian, Elizabeth Chung. She is younger than the other two. All the girls are very bright, have wild imaginations and develop a strong, rather strange fascination with Egyptology. After having read every book about Egypt in the school library they come upon a fenced, vacant lot adjacent to an antique shop and decide to make it their “Egypt”. They fashion an Egyptian temple made out of odds and ends and discards. They create their own hieroglyphics, adopt Egyptian names and dress and act out scripted rituals. Two boys in their class are even allowed to participate. But then a macabre incident occurs, a little girl in their neighborhood is murdered. Parents panic and restrict kids to their home turf. Will this be the end of the Egypt game?

Young Adult literature has provided inspiration for film since the inception of film. Even today the Harry Potter and the Hunger Game series have cleaned up at the box office. Sentimental weepers like The Fault is in Our Stars and War Horse have done well also. While reading The Egypt Game it struck me as so inherently pictorial, cinematic. It would make such a wonderful movie not only for youngsters but one adults could certainly enjoy as well. It almost became a flick. In the nineties author, Snyder, was offered a deal by no less an iconic entity that Disney but the company would not agree to guarantee a multiracial cast . Snyder said, “no way!” Good for her. The “mouse house” is not always the bunnies and butterflies that one might expect and Snyder, a blossomed flower child who had protested the Vietnam war felt that the ethnicities she had assigned her characters were integral. Hopefully another studio will eventually see the pragmatic and magical qualities of this book and option it this time with its themes intact.