Zilpha Keatley Snyder Wiki

The Egypt Game

140pages on
this wiki
The Egypt Game
Book egy 1967
First Edition Cover
First Published: 1967
Identifier: ISBN 0689702973
Pages: 214
More Details
Chapter Summaries
List of Characters
Book Covers

The Egypt Game is a book by Zilpha Keatley Snyder, first published in 1967. The story follows the creation of an imaginative game by a group of children who share an interest in Ancient Egypt. The book was illustrated by Alton Raible.


Snyder uses memories and references from her own life as building blocks for the story. The longest roots go back to her childhood, when she was a fifth-grader and was fascinated by ancient Egyptian culture, reading every book on the subject, imagining herself an Egyptian and even making up her own hieroglyphic alphabet. Her daughter also had her own version of the "Egypt Game" when she was a preteen, including doing most activities described in the novel. The six "Egyptians" are based loosely on children Snyder used to teach in Washington Elementary School in Berkeley.

Plot SummaryEdit

April Hall, the daughter of a Hollywood singer is sent by her mother to live with her grandmother in a Californian university town. It has been suggested that the town in question is Berkeley, as Snyder worked there as a teacher and based the characters on some students she knew, but this was never confirmed in the book.

April Hall makes friends with Melanie Ross, a classmate who, like her, is fascinated by Ancient Egypt. Along with Melanie's little brother Marshall, they begin a sustained imaginative game about Ancient Egypt. The children research actual Egyptian belief systems and practices, and create rituals intended to reproduce them more or less authentically. Their play area is an abandoned storage yard behind A-Z Antiques, a shabby shop owned by a strange, reclusive man known as the Professor. The kids can get in the yard through a loose board in the fence.

School starts soon, but the three children continue their game, visiting the storage yard each afternoon. A child of Hollywood, April's behavior is influenced by that of the movie stars; she acts haughtily and dresses in fashionable outfits. However, thanks to Melanie, April is able to discard the "Hollywood act" and make new friends at Wilson School. Another new girl, fourth-grader Elizabeth Chung, moves into the same building as Melanie and April and becomes a member of the Egypt gang.

When someone murders a child in the area, the neighborhood is thrown into panic, and many people suspect the Professor due to his strange nature and his lack of an alibi. The "Egypt Game" is put on hold while children are kept indoors to play, and the four kids can return to their play area only after a month, when they break off from the Halloween trick-or-treating group. On that evening, the secret game is discovered by two of their classmates, Ken Kamata and Toby Alvillar. The girls invite the boys to join in order to make sure that they don't tell on them. Soon, the children are allowed to play outdoors again, and they develop their game, creating more and more intricate ceremonies. Soon, strange things start to happen, and the children wonder if they stirred up some ancient and mysterious power with their rituals.

April also struggles with her mother's rejection: even though she promised that the move would be temporary, she does not send for April, and is not interested in reuniting with her daughter. Finally, April accepts the situation, and even refuses her mother's invitation to a holiday trip.

One evening, April is attacked by a man, but is rescued thanks to the Professor's help. The attacker - and the actual murderer of children - is identified as a mentally unstable young man; he is caught and taken away to a mental hospital. The danger has passed, but the "land of Egypt" is closed down, as the loose board in the fence is replaced. However, over Christmas vacation, the Professor meets with all six kids and gives them each their own key to the yard door. This permits them to continue their game, which he had watched with a rapt attention all along. However, the "Egypt Game" has lost its charm by then, and the book ends with one of the children raising the possibility of a new game involving Gypsies. Snyder followed up on this possibility by writing The Gypsy Game three decades later.


The Egypt Game received generally favorable reviews, and won several awards.


  • First Prize at the Spring Book Festival, New York (1967)
  • Newbery Honor Book (1968)[1]
  • Lewis Carroll Shelf Award (1970)[2]
  • George G. Stone Recognition of Merit (1973)[2]
  • ALA Notable Book


"[The Egypt Game] may prove to be one of the controversial books of the decade: it is strong in characterization, the dialogue is superb, the plot is original, and the sequences in which the children are engaged in sustained imaginative play are fascinating, and often very funny. On the other hand, the murder scare and the taciturn, gloomy Professor seem grim notes. In this story the fact that the children are white, Negro, and Oriental seems not a device but a natural consequence of grouping in a heterogeneous community. The Egypt Game is a distinguished book."[3]

- Saturday Review, 1967

"[The Egypt Game] moves with suspense and humor, despite evidence that the ingredients were deliberately assembled. The characters, though delightfully real, appear to have been carefully selected to represent a cross section of middle-class Americans. (...) There is little doubt about the appeal of this lively book with its up-to-the-minute speech and situations, even though it was obviously written to fill current "needs" and will soon be dated."[4]

- The Horn Book Magazine, 1967

"Mrs. Snyder (...) has succeeded in presenting contemporary children as they talk and act on they own."

- The New York Times Book Review

"Only in the hands of a skillful writer would the characters emerge so lifelike that the reader feels that he knows each one. A brief review cannot do justice to the book, which has originality and verve in plot, style, and characterization."[5]

- School Library Journal

"A classic from the 1960's that stands up today (...) Some of the good stuff in this book: learning about responsibility and safety, acceptance, and finding out that things are not always what they seem. It also has all the elements that make up a good story: action, intrigue, mystery... I highly recommend this book to readers of all ages."[6]

- Young Adult Books Central

"Tailor-made for children who love the thought of rambling mansions, garden mazes, and hidden treasure."

- Booklist

"An increasingly captivating story, which builds to a risky and daring climax."

- Kirkus


The Egypt Game was first published in 1967 by Atheneum. Since then, it was republished more than 20 times and translated in 5 foreign languages.

Publication HistoryEdit

The following English language editions are known[7]:

Foreign EditionsEdit

Known foreign editions are in German, Czech, Chinese, Korean and Thai[8].

Related PublicationsEdit

  • A Guide for Using The Egypt Game in the Classroom (Kelli Plaxco), Teacher Created Resources, 2004, ISBN 0743930061
  • LitPlans on CD: The Egypt Game (Catherine Caldwell), Teacher's Pet Publications, 2006, ISBN 1583372776
  • The Egypt Game Literature Kit (Nat Reed), Classroom Complete Press, 2006, ISBN 1553193350


  1. Newbery Medal and Honor Books, 1922-Present, American Library Association
  2. 2.0 2.1 Literature Place list of The Egypt Game awards
  3. Zena Sutherland, "For Younger Children: The Egypt Game", Saturday Review, Vol. L, No. 19, May 13, 1967, pp. 55-6
  4. Ruth Hill Viguers, "Early Spring Booklist: The Egypt Game", The Horn Book Magazine, Vol. XLIII, No. 2, April, 1967, pp. 209-10
  5. Top 100 Children's Novels, School Library Journal
  6. Kimberly Pauley, "The Egypt Game review", Young Adult Books Central
  7. Fantastic Fiction list
  8. The Egypt Game on Snyder's homepage

See AlsoEdit


Around Wikia's network

Random Wiki