This summer, every Monday and Wednesday, I am hosting a series of guest posts here on my blog called Middle Grade Memories. In this series, authors, agents, librarians, and editors talk about their favorite childhood middle grade books. I’m beyond thrilled to share their middle grade memories with you.
Below is the fifth post in the series, by Jordan Hamessley, fabulous children’s book editor at Penguin’s Grosset and Dunlap imprint. Read on as Jordan talks about one of her favorite childhood middle grade books, The Egypt Game. Then check out the giveaway!
The Egypt Game is a book about imagination. Following a group of children in the late 1960’s, the book reminds us of a time when kids were content (and allowed) to play outside unsupervised for hours on end. The six friends in The Egypt Game spend their afternoons in the backlot behind the local antique shop acting out mythical ceremonies and playing pharoahs, priests, and priestesses. When a child is murdered in their neighborhood, the six Egyptians continue to play their game, even as mysterious things start to occur during the game ceremonies and the children discover the truth about the murder and themselves.
One of my fondest memories from elementary school was my third grade class’s unit on Ancient Egypt. I was already a bit of an Egypt nerd after watching Big Bird and Snuffleupagus defy an Egyptian God in Don’t Eat the Pictures: Sesame Street at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but this unit on Ancient Egypt turned me into a full on Ancient Egyptian nut. One of our assignments was to read The Egypt Game, and I fell in love.
My third grade teacher’s Ancient Egypt unit was my most memorable elementary school experience. When we read the chapter about the kids in the book mummifying a dead bird, our class mummified a chicken. A store bought chicken, mind you. We took out the giblets and put them into a bottle and wrapped the chicken in paper and buried it behind the school. I often think that some day in the distant future, archaeologists will excavate the ruins of my elementary school and find hundreds of chickens buried next to the playground. I wonder what they will think?
Over the years, my many rereadings of The Egypt Game have deepened my love and appreciation of the novel. Each character is so clearly defined. On my most recent reread, I remembered just how adorable the character of Marshall is. At four years old, he is the youngest participant in The Egypt Game, but he is truly the heart of the story. He reminds me very much of Charles Wallace from A Wrinkle in Time, with his hyperintelligence. Marshall is the most aware of all of the children and the loss of his stuffed octopus named Security provides one of the most moving moments of the book.
Another unique character in the book I adore is the Professor. He owns the antique shop and back lot where The Egypt Game takes place. To the children he is a mysterious and scary figure, but he is a silent observer of the game and ultimately the children learn that he has so much more to offer them than his back lot.
The summer after I graduated from college, I took a trip to Egypt. The eight year old inside me was thrilled to finally be in the place I had dreamed of since third grade. I played my own private version of The Egypt Game when I visited King Tut and had a chat with his mummy in his tomb. It was magical. My memories of reading The Egypt Game were with me throughout my trip and shaped expectations.
There is no paranormal or magical element to The Egypt Game, just six kids using their imagination. And that is why I go back to this book year after year. It takes me back to a time when all I had to do to be transported back to Ancient Egypt was put on a funny hat. For a time in elementary school, I was convinced that I was Nefertiti reincarnated into an 8 year old girl in Texas. That’s the magic of books.
Jordan Hamessley London is an assistant editor at Grosset and Dunlap, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers where she edits Adam-Troy Castro’s middle grade horror series Gustav Gloom, Literally Disturbed (an upcoming collection of scary stories from Ben H. Winters), A.J. Stern’s Frankly, Frannie series and more.
To celebrate Jordan’s post, she is generously giving away a copy of The Egypt Game and an ARC of Adam-Troy Castro’s Gustav Gloom and the People Taker, an upcoming spooky MG that Jordan edited and I just love! Look at the pretty!
To win, simply comment below and tell us about your experience with The Egypt Game. Have you read and loved this book? How did it influence you? What are your middle grade memories? (Personally, I’d never heard of this book before Jordan’s post, and now I’m dying to read it!)
For an extra entry, tweet about this post and include the link to your tweet in your comment.
This giveaway begins now and ends Wednesday, June 27 at 11:59 a.m. EST. The winner will be announced shortly thereafter. This giveaway is U.S./Canada only.
EDITED 6/27: This giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to the winner . . .
Beth, I will contact you shortly with more information. Thank you to all participants! And stay tuned for more Middle Grade Memories giveaways throughout the summer!
Love Middle Grade Memories? Check back on Mondays and Wednesdays throughout the summer for more in this series!
You can view previous Middle Grade Memories posts below:
- author Marissa Burt and Where the Red Fern Grows
- author Sarvenaz Tash and The Witches
- author Jay Kristoff and The Hobbit
- author Adam-Troy Castro and Dr. Dolittle
- author Greg Leitich Smith and The Enormous Egg
- librarian Rita Meade and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
- author Cristin Terrill and The Baby-Sitters Club
- author Phoebe North and A Swiftly Tilting Planet