Back when I was in 5th grade, my teacher assigned The Egypt Game by Zilpha K. Synder to the entire class for silent reading hour. At age 10, the idea of ‘assigned reading’ was so distasteful to me that I hid it in my desk and ignored it for the rest of the year. I’d rather read Choose Your Own Adventures than a Newbery Winner. So why did I suddenly decide to pick up The Egypt Game now? Maybe after 13 years, I’m finally starting to feel guilty for blatantly defying my 5th grade teacher. This book report may be 13 years overdue, but now I can say I tied up loose ends. So, Mr. Boomgars, I hope you’re reading this, because this post is for you. And I forgive you for making me copy the Encyclopedia Britannica as punishment for my idleness, it improved my penmanship after all.
One-minute plot summary: Ten year old April is the new girl in town. She befriends Melanie and the two girls quickly discover a common interest in Egypt. Soon April, Melanie, & Co. are sneaking into a secluded backlot where they pretend they are in Egypt, hence ‘The Egypt Game.’ (The plot summary is always the painful part. I’m trying to top myself in being more concise. I wonder if I can get away with: New girl meets local girl. Girls joined by classmates. They play Egypt Game. Game good).
Reaction: I’m keen on the whole idea of kids using their imagination and conjuring up exotic places in an enclosed backlot. Nowadays, kids have so much technological stimuli at their fingertips that I wonder if after-school ‘make-believe’ is a lost art. (I’m only 23, why did that sentence make me sound like I’m 80? Allow me to banish my cane…)
Z. Synder did a great job at capturing the new and inventive ways these kids’ built an imaginary Egyptian world, but what I liked most about this book is the back story of April’s wanna-be starlet mother who lives in Hollywood and eloped with her agent. In the meantime, April is staying with her grandmother, pining for the day when her famous movie star mother will send for her. In reality, April’s mother is probably a waitress in Hollywood trying to make it big while spinning illusions of grandeur for her daughter.
I might be reading too much into this, but I see a parallel between the children’s Egypt fantasy and the adult version of the same fantasy, only when you’re an adult and still pretending, it’s sad. April idolized her glamourous mother but she eventually discovers that her mother is only human. I guess that discovery, in so many words, summaries growing up.
You see Mr. Boomgars, you can’t get insight like that in the 5th grade…