Finally, I decided to follow through my frequent intentions to reread both books and actually get new copies that I could give to the grandchildren--after rereading them myself, of course!
One held up beautifully, making me appreciate again the skill of Zilpha Keatley Snyder and the creative imagination of children. First published in 1967, The Egypt Game won a Newberry Honors Award and is included in NPR's 100 Must Reads for Kids 9-14. We read it in the mid-1980's, and on rereading it this year, the only thing that dates the book is that children today are not allowed the same freedom to roam away from parental oversight as they were in the past.
The Egypt Game
There are books written for children that may be loved at the time, but that are soon outgrown. Then there are the books written for children that remain as enthralling at 60 as at six, or nine, or 12.
The Egypt Game deserves its role as a classic. Z.K.S. has created kids that jump off the page and into your imagination and heart, and you find yourself wishing you could play with them, be a part of their games and, like Peter Pan, never grow up.
It is interesting to see the ethnic diversity Snyder includes in a book that is nearly 50 years old. She explains the various "roots" of her ideas in the introduction, and one of the roots of her story involves children she taught in Berkely, CA--a mix of "American kids of all races, as well as a few whose parents were graduate students from other countries."
While her idea for the Egypt game played by the characters in the story had roots both in her own childhood and that of her daughter, the characters in the book, she admits freely (and with pleasure) are loosely based on students she taught.
Book Description: "The first time Melanie Ross meets April Hall, she's not sure they'll have anything in common. But she soon discovers that they both love anything to do with ancient Egypt. When they stumble upon a deserted storage yard behind the A-Z Antiques and Curio Shop, Melanie and April decide it's the perfect spot for Egypt Game.
Before long there are six Egyptians instead of two. After school and on weekends they all meet to wear costumes, hold ceremonies, and work on their secret code.
Everyone thinks it's just a game, until strange things begin happening to the players. Has the Egypt Game gone too far?"
The book is beautifully illustrated by Alton Raible with just the right amount of detail.
It is a pleasure to read, whether you are a child or an adult, and I recommend it highly!
The Westing Game which we also read at some point during that period, didn't hold up as well for me. It is also a Newbery book and one still beloved by many.
Book Description: A bizarre chain of events begins when sixteen unlikely people gather for the reading of Samuel W. Westing’s will. And though no one knows why the eccentric, game-loving millionaire has chosen a virtual stranger—and a possible murderer—to inherit his vast fortune, on things for sure: Sam Westing may be dead…but that won’t stop him from playing one last game!
However, in rereading, I found the most of the characters to be thinly drawn and the writing lackluster and overly complicated--this opinion is based on my second reading because all I remember about reading it the first time with my kids --is that I loved it.
Because the book remained such a fond memory for so many years, I recommend that you read it for yourself, especially if you have kids. The number of people who have read and loved it (and even reread, and loved it) far outweighs my opinion on this one.
Have any of you read either of these books? What do you think?