Nicole Lamb's Reviews > The Egypt Game

The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
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's review
Sep 16, 2012

it was amazing
Read in September, 2012

Junior Book Critique #1

The Egypt Game
BY: Zilpha Keatley Snyder

1. Junior Book Genre: Contemporary Realism

2. Brief Summary: The Egypt Game concentrates on the friendships and dynamic young characters that create an elaborate game in the backyard of a local store that focuses on the wonders and magic of Ancient Egypt. The main character April Hall, though she calls herself April Dawn, moved from Hollywood where she lived a glamorous life with her actress mother Dorothea to live at Casa Rosada with her grandmother Caroline. It is in this small town that she befriends Melanie Ross and the two find that their common love for Egypt bonds them together as best friends. Soon after creating the elaborate imaginary game of Egypt they welcome Melanie’s brother Marshall (with his stuffed octopus Security), a neighbor Elizabeth and two boys from school Toby and Ken. Though the local murder of a young student their age halts the game for a time, the six resume play and recreate the wondrous myths and history of Egypt while forming the lasting bonds of friendship that leads to the future exploration of other cultures.

A. Area for comment: While it is difficult to choose one main aspect of this story that is noteworthy since it integrates a number of elements of traditional storytelling so vividly, the main area of distinction is ultimately the use of vivid descriptions to build plot, character development and relationships. Zilpha Keatley Snyder does an excellent job at describing the characters personalities and physical characteristics, as well as, their passion and enthusiasm for the game they created.

B. Professional Evaluation: Although The Egypt Game is an much older Newberry Honor book I had yet to ever have the opportunity to read and experience the joy found in this book. Zilpha Keatley Snyder has been honored for her contributions to literature a number of times and this novel is evidence of why she is so respected in the world of children’s/young adult literature. The Egypt Game does a phenomenal job at truly bringing the audience along the journey of these two best friends and the eventual group of six vibrant and personable young students. The passion and enthusiasm that these children display for learning about and experience the “true” Egypt is intoxicating as you feel, as the audience, a part of the experience. It is also Snyder’s use of vibrant character descriptions that assists in getting to know these six young students and feeling a part of their experiences. Overall, I found this book to be fun, intriguing and brilliant and would be a great piece of literature to integrate into any classroom environment.

C. Specific Example: It is evident throughout the novel that the characters and their thoughts and experiences were central to the overall plot. Snyder does a fantastic job at using descriptive words to make the characters feel as real to the reader as possible. For example, Synder’s description of April’s Halloween costume displays her dedication to the authenticity of her passion for Egypt: “April looked great. She was wearing her Egyptian headdress and under her sheer jeweled robe she had on the short tunic made of a pillowcase. Around the bottom of the pillowcase there were Egyptian-looking decorations done in red and black crayon…her false eyelashes were on straight, and she had heavy black makeup that made her eyes look long and mysterious (p 83-84).” This exceptional imagery can also be found during the chapter on the Ceremony of the Dead in which Toby and Ken experienced their first “real” Egyptian Ceremony and “it was Toby who suggested that they march around the alter, beating their chests and sprinkling their heads with ashes and wailing (p. 135).” These two short examples demonstrate the children’s passion for their game, as well as, the brilliant description that Synder uses to engage her audience.

4. Curriculum Connection: The most intriguing aspect of this junior book is its ability to cross the curriculum through the integration of social studies and language arts. There are a number of connections that can be made when reading The Egypt Game especially if studying a unit on Egyptian culture and history since the main characters highlight a number of ceremonies, traditions and cultural understandings of Egypt. There are also a number of connections that can be made regarding specific language arts themes such as plot development, the use of simile and metaphors, and the use of vivid descriptions when creating authentic characters. It is without a doubt that this junior book can be a huge asset in the classroom to reinforce the love of learning about various cultures, history and language arts.

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