For some reason I feel like I read a ton of Zilpha Keatley Snyder's books when I was a kid, but I think I really just read The Headless Cupid (1971) and The Egypt Game (1967) over and over again. Thanks to the lovely Choo, I just got to re-read The Egypt Game for the first time as an adult, and I'm pleased to report that it holds up wonderfully.
Eleven-year-old April Hall has just moved into an apartment complex in a new town with her grandmother while her mother, a struggling actress, stays in Hollywood with her agent/boyfriend. April wears giant fake eyelashes, teases her hair up, and talks about nothing but how great Hollywood is and how childish kids her own age are. Then she meets Melanie Ross, a girl her age in the same complex. They quickly become friends and bond over their active imaginations and their love of ancient Egypt. A loose board in an ally fence lets them into the unused back lot of an antique store run by the mysterious Professor. Together with Melanie's four year old brother, Marshall (who carries around a stuffed octopus named Security and who is my favorite character of all) they spend hours every afternoon making up rituals, decorating alters, and playing The Egypt Game. A few other kids from the neighborhood join in and everything is going great until a kid a few blocks away goes missing and then is found murdered. All the parents keep the kids inside and it looks like it might be the end of the Egypt Game forever.
This book is a fun read that perfectly bridges the gap between little kid games and pre-teen angstiness. It confronts "important issues" without being preachy and has a straight-forwardness that appealed to me as a kid and still speaks to me as an adult. If you never read this as a kid, give it a chance, and if you know a elementary school kid who needs something to read, throw this book their way.
[I just found out that Snyder wrote a sequel to this 30 years later (in 1997) called The Gypsy Game, has anyone read it?]