Form and Content
The Egypt Game has short chapters with enticing titles that encourage its young audience to continue reading, especially if they are interested in ancient Egypt or become caught up in the mystery and excitement of the Egypt Game. The black-and-white illustrations by Alton Raible that accompany the text are effective. Most of them are of the children and depict what is occurring in the chapters.
The setting is a large university town in California with a diverse population that lives along Orchard Avenue, with the children attending the same elementary school. The neighborhood is composed of shops, small homes, and old apartment houses.
Eleven-year-old April Hall’s glamorous, show business mother sends her to live with her paternal grandmother, whom April refers to as Caroline. April, who never knew her father because he was killed in the Korean War, resents having to live with Caroline and is anxiously awaiting a letter from her mother telling her to move back home. April looks upon the move to Caroline’s apartment as temporary.
Caroline works at the university library and tells April that every noon until school starts, she is to go to the Rosses for lunch. They live in the same building, the Casa Rosada apartments, and have a four-year-old son and a daughter about April’s age, who will come to get her. Melanie Ross knocks at the door and sees April with her blond hair piled on top of her head, wearing false eyelashes and her mother’s old fur stole. After lunch, Melanie shows April her library.
As April is looking at Melanie’s books, she pulls out an old, dull-looking geography book, and paper figures fall out. Melanie and April make up stories about the figures and come to enjoy each other’s company and their imagining games. The Egypt Game begins when April finds a new book at the library about Egypt and a young pharaoh.
The mysterious Professor, the owner of an antique store, looks out a window of a storeroom at the back of his shop to see the two girls enter his property by moving a loose board in a fence. They are followed by Marshall, Melanie’s four-year-old brother who is always accompanied by Security, a stuffed toy octopus; he is struggling to get through the fence. The girls find a lean-to shack containing a cracked and chipped plaster bust of the Egyptian queen Nefertiti, which they consider an omen. They call the shed “the Temple” and refer to the area as “Egypt.” Soon, Elizabeth Chung, a nine-year-old who moves into the Casa Rosada apartments, and Toby Alvillar and Ken Kamata, sixth-grade classmates of April and Melanie, also become players in the Egypt Game.
One night, April is taking care of Marshall when she realizes that she has left her math book in the Temple, and she and Marshall go to retrieve it. April is nervous about going out at night and moves the board the wrong way. It makes a noise, and she is attacked by a stranger who attempts to strangle her. The Professor calls for help, and Marshall identifies the attacker, who confesses to have murdered a boy and a girl from the neighborhood.