I had seen this book recommended as a good read aloud somewhere and decided now was a good time for it. The kids are focusing on ancient history in homeschooling this year, and this was at least nominally about Egypt, so why not.
Genre: middle grade fiction
Length: 215 pages
Setting: a large University town in California, 1960s
Summary: April has been sent to live with her grandmother while her mother tries to get her career going in Hollywood. April’s not too keen about La Casa Rosada, her grandmother’s apartment house, but at least there’s a girl her age to play with, Melanie. Melanie and April are great at imagination games. This really comes to the forefront when they discover a loose board in the alley that leads to the Professor’s unused back yard. They turn the yard into Egypt and imagine themselves as priestesses. Their play is interrupted when a child is murdered in the neighborhood, but eventually the parents let the kids out to play again. Several other kids, including two boys, are added to the game as time goes on.
Final thoughts: A perfectly pleasant book that highlights the fun you can have with a fertile imagination. There’s also a common thread of acceptance running through the book. April had to accept her new living arrangement. April and Melanie had to accept new kids into Egypt and their suggestions. The neighborhood also had to accept the fact that the Professor was odd and kept to himself, but that didn’t make him a murderer. Interestingly, the book had a multi-racial make-up of characters (white, black, Asian), which I found surprising considering its publication date. No big deal was made about race, beyond character descriptions.
The book worked pretty well as a read aloud. The chapters were just the right length for a day’s reading, and there weren’t too many characters to try to keep track of their voices.
Title comes from: April and Melanie made up a game where they imagined they lived in ancient Egypt, and that was the basic plot to the book.
Awards won: a Newbery Honor award in 1967
Reading challenges fulfilled: book #66 for the year (sadly, Zilpha was the first name of the author, not the last)
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