Rereadings: The Egypt Game
Welcome to our newest series: Rereadings. Rereadings will alternate Friday-duty with our long-running series Fairy Tale Friday. Partially inspired by the great Anne Fadiman (who edited a collection of essays of the same name), we’ll be rereading books that we absolutely adore but haven’t read for years (decades in some cases!) and sharing how our second read changed our experience with the book.
We welcome your input and guest bloggers for this series, so if you have books to share, remembrances to write, or suggestions for us to read, definitely drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below.
I first discovered The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder sitting innocently on my fourth grade teacher’s bookshelf. It was love at first sight. I have no idea why, since I was not a particularly devious child or one remotely interested in ancient Egypt, but I fell immediately in love with the book without reading a word and squirreled it away in my desk for weeks before actually cracking it open. (Hey, I had to finish reading Dear Mr. Henshaw first before jumping into something else.)
This book is quite simply the reason I love Egypt. It got me started and inspired so many of my middle school shenanigans (as my co-blogger will no doubt attest). I have forced it upon friends and younger relatives throughout the years and glowingly pondered it, but, as an adult, never reread it. I was feeling particularly in need of book-comfort this week, so it seemed like a good place to start rereading.
In my experience, rereading books of your youth often allow you to see a whole other level to them and take away new meaning (see Little Women). More disappointingly, sometimes these books prove to be dull or even bizarre, forcing you to wonder why you even liked it in the first place (see any book or movie pertaining to Care Bears). Other times, these rereadings are time machines, propelling you back to when you first read the book. In this case, it was the latter. I was immediately my ten-year-old self, thinking the characters were unbelievably cool and wanting to do it all myself.
The plot, for those of you who I haven’t forced to read it, starts when April Hall is unceremoniously dumped at her grandmother’s for an undetermined length of time by her mother. There, she meets Melanie and her brother Marshall. The three of them discover ancient Egypt at their local library (place of magic and wonder) and then start playing impressively imaginative and well-informed games about Egypt in the abandoned yard behind an old antique shop owned by a mysterious figure known only as “the Professor.”
Funnily, in rereading the book, I realized that I had forgotten the main thrust of the plot (a fishy murder mystery in the neighborhood) in favor of remembering all the bits about Egypt and imagination-based games. I had also forgotten the main character’s flaky mother who abandons her at her grandmother’s house and runs off to tour the country. Apparently, ten-year-old me was far more interested in learning hieroglyphs than dealing with serious social issues. (Ah, some things never change…)
Despite these rather large holes in my memory of the book, rereading The Egypt Game was an utterly comforting trip into Nostalgialand. It was all still there, just like when I was ten. It is reassuring to know that the Egypt Game had not grown stale in the intervening years and that even if I’ve grown up and become an adult, I’m still a little bit the same girl I was in Mrs. Priset’s classroom, feeling slightly naughty for stealing a book and hiding it in my desk.