Banned Books: The Egypt Game

By the time you’re reading this, I’ll be in Florida! I blame my busy schedule of packing/putting my affairs in order/scolding Steven not to starve to death for the fact that I totally misread the latest book I read for my Banned Books Project. I know I said I was going to concentrate first on books banned in public libraries, and this one was challenged in a school, but I’m sure you’ll forgive me. Especially if I bring you back a manatee!

I miss covers like this; it made it way easier to pretend I'd read things

Title: The Egypt Game
Author: Zilpha Keatley Snyder
Not to be Confused With: To Kill a Mockingbird
Challenged in: Southern Hills Elementary School, Wichita Falls, TX
For: depicting Egyptian worship rituals

A quote from the offended father: “I’m not going to stop until it’s banned from the school district. I will not quiet down. I will not back down. I don’t believe any student should be subjected to anything that has to do with evil gods or black magic.”

This book is basically To Kill a Mockingbird without any of the racial themes. A group of kids that share an obsession with Ancient Egypt accidentally-on-purpose sneak into Boo Radley’s Creepy Old Antiques Dealer’s back lot to create an elaborate imagination game about living in Ancient Egypt. This even included trips to the library (!) to learn about Ancient Egypt, making their own costumes out of found materials, and creating a secret hieroglyphics language. Creepy Boo Radley Antique’s Dealer even leaves them soap dolls answers to questions they ask “the oracle of Egypt”. THEN SUDDENLY when two of the children return to “Egpyt” at night to find a lost math book, they are ATTACKED by Bob Ewell the town drunk the mentally ill cousin of the variety store owner, who has already kidnapped and murdered two neighborhood children over the years. Luckily, Boo Antiques Dealer stabs him calls for help.

This book was first published in 1966 and won a Newberry Honor award. The language is at times slightly dated, and the children seem to be constantly playing with fire. I don’t know if that was what All the Cool Kids were doing back in the 60s or what, but to me that seems more a cause for concern than the “evil rituals” described. Most of the “rituals” the children come up with are fairly basic, some based on real Egyptian practices, but most made up with the aid of junk they find in the neighborhood and their own imaginations. The only time the children actually start to believe any of their pretend game is when one of the questions they ask the “Oracle” (a stuffed owl), actually gets answered, by someone other than the boy playing the “high priest”. Even then, while spooked, they do not immediately attribute this to a real-life Ancient Egyptian god, and there are enough clues for astute children to be able to see it as the work of Boo Radley Antiques Dealer before he reveals himself in the end.

Since this book was on a school reading list, I can envision filling out worksheet after worksheet about the Power of Imagination and maybe even Stranger Danger, but not so much Ancient Egyptian Gods and You: How to Turn Away from Christianity. I wonder if The Lightning Thief is also unacceptable under these circumstances because, not only does it discuss Ancient Greek religion in detail, it also asserts that it was real, something The Egypt Game never does. In either case, I feel like there are worse interests than Ancient Religions. Like drugs. Or PLAYING WITH FIRE. That is where the kids in The Egypt Game really get me. Their made up rituals often feature an unsupervised sacred fire inside an old mixing bowl. The text never mentions how they start it; I’m assuming Boyscout Training Gone Wrong.

Now that I mention it, that would be an amazing graphic novel, boyscouts using their training for EVIL instead of GOOD. They’re always prepared…. FOR CRIME.

While searching for The Egypt Game‘s wikipedia page to get info on the 1997 sequel, The Gypsy Game, I stumbled across this delightful website which has a detailed summary and awesome analysis. Didn’t realize before reading it that I may also be going to hell because, not going to lie, I spent most of my childhood pretending I had magical powers and served The Goddess just like Alanna from Tamora Pierce’s even more evil books. She seduced me with her girl-empowering stories of adventure and friendship. IF ONLY I HAD KNOWN

2 Responses to “Banned Books: The Egypt Game”

  1. It always boggles my mind that there are actual people who really think stuff like ancient Egyptian religions are imminent and ever-present threats against which they must be constantly vigilant and combat interest in them whenever it is found, lest the SOULS OF THE CHILDREN FALL INTO THE CLUTCHES OF SATAN THE PRINCE OF LIES HIMSELF.

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