Another Newbery. Kids, back when kids still played outdoors unsupervised with other kids. When they still dreamed their own games and played them. Still went door-to-door a few at a time knocking on doors on Halloween.
But almost the end of it, and Snyder manages to catch the seed of why in The Egypt Game. Partly it was computers, of course. But, despite the fact it’s a book for kids, a threat haunts the wings and the sidelines in this one, and the threat rhymes too well with what was still in the future in 1967, to be much fun.
A kid changes towns and schools, comes to live with a grandma while her mom takes a run at Hollywood. Seriously. Naturally the girl is infatuated with what she left behind, the glamor of mom’s aspirations. And naturally the kids around her aren’t overly impressed.
But grandma lives in a stack of apartments and some of the units have kids her age and proximity demands they become friends. Basic setting.
The Hollywood girl has imagination, though. She finds a vacant, private lot with a storage building behind an antique store with lots of the kinds of artifacts kids once couldn’t resist. She and her friends begin the Egypt game, building a shrine, creating rituals and donning costumery.
But they’re being watched from a back room window in the antique store by a man everyone in the neighborhood’s afraid of. Not because he’s done anything sinister, but because he’s definitely not sociable.
Meanwhile a kid is murdered in the vicinity and parents batten down the hatches, demanding rules be followed and a lot more supervision be adherred to. The Egypt Game continues, but it goes further underground. Still watched through the back window.
But somewhere toward the end things manage to turn around in a way to make this plot refreshing, a ray of sunshine where today, most likely, it would go an entirely different way.
A nice read. Adults will get a smile, kids will probably remember it. Not as long as they’d remember Charlotte’s Web, or Stuart Little, maybe. But they’ll probably recall it for a while.