Books That Built Me

Books That Built Me: The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder

The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder

I checked out this book, with that cover (other versions of the cover just look wrong), so many times from the library. Like a lot of kids, I was fascinated by ancient Egypt — or rather, by the version of ancient Egypt that you tend to get in elementary school, focused mainly on mummies, pyramids, hieroglyphics, and stylized vogueing-type poses. So I loved the idea of other kids who loved ancient Egypt. But more than that, I loved the characters, and especially the relationship between self-dramatizing, false eyelashes-wearing April Hall and practical, cautious Melanie Ross. April is one of the first viewpoint characters I can remember encountering who was sometimes thoughtless and mean, and I appreciated that, too. I also adored Melanie’s serious little brother Marshall, who carries a stuffed octopus named Security. When they’re all dressing up for Halloween, Marshall wonders where his sign is, since his previous experience of costumes is that you wear them for protest marches.

Here’s a lovely paragraph about games from the autobiography on Ms. Snyder’s website:

And then there were games. Some were secret, some less so, and most of them grew out of a compulsion to endow everything animal, vegetable and mineral with human characteristics. I suspect that all very young children are naturally given to anthropomorphism, but with me it must have been almost a full-time occupation. Not only animals, but also trees, plants, toys, and many other inanimate objects had personalities, and sometimes complicated life histories. Often these creatures seemed to have been in need of a helping hand. I built leafy shelters for homeless insects, doctored demons, most of whom haunted closets and the dark corners of rooms. Although they really frightened me, I don’t think I would have wanted to be talked out of them. They were my demons and we had a working relationship.

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  • sara z.
    April 15, 2009 at 10:41 pm

    ZKS was one of my absolute favorites. I was obsessed with The Velvet Room, and The Changeling.

  • Deborah
    April 18, 2009 at 8:50 pm

    The Changeling was my favorite and a touchstone of sorts. The parallels between Martha’s life and mine were persuasively uncanny, and I would check in with it every few years to receive guidance on what life would look like in its next phase. I still am occasionally surprised to find that others have read it, since it was so clearly written expressly for me.