100 Chapter Books Project: The Egypt Game

EgyptGame

Sadly, a couple of days ago, Zilpha Keatley Snyder died at the age of 87. (Publishers’ Weekly obituary) I have to admit that it has made me change my post slightly, to be a bit more thoughtful and positive about the book and about what she was trying to accomplish. I had never heard of Snyder or The Egypt Game (1967) before I saw it on the Top 100 Chapter Books but I do plan on seeking out more of her books now, especially since a few of them have been recently reissued.

What it’s about: After her actress mother gets flaky, April moves from Hollywood to Berkeley, CA to live with her paternal grandmother. She’s sometimes a brat about it, treating her grandmother badly as she somewhat impatiently waits for her mother to summon her back home. She wears a hairstyle that’s far too old for her, massive fake eyelashes, and a fur stole and then wonders why she has trouble fitting in with the easy-going Berkeley kids. But Melanie, a girl from her apartment building, is a good kid and she connects with April over a newly-born interest in Egypt and they start playing a pretend game about being Egyptians. A new girl in their building joins them in the game and everything is going well until a child in the neighborhood is abducted and murdered and all of the parents make their kids stay indoors. But they (and the boys who eventually join their game) sneak around anyway and eventually one of them ends up in true peril.

Age level: Grade 4-6

Best part: I really liked the way April and Melanie treated Marshall, Melanie’s four-year-old brother. He was a quirky little guy and they always stood up for him and treated him well.

Worst part: Though I’m sure Snyder meant well in 1967, crafting a novel that celebrated the diversity of families that lived in this college community, she goes a bit overboard in her praise for the racial characteristics of each character. For example, though she barely mentions anything about April’s face except for her bad hairstyle and fake lashes, she gushes about Elizabeth’s Asian eyes three or four times. Again, I’m sure she meant well but it comes across as a tad awkward in our semi-post-racial society.

Verdict: Buy/Borrow

If I had read this book in the early 80s when I was a kid, I probably would have loved it. It was a bit mysterious, had things in it that would have still seemed topical and probable in the mid 80s, and would have gotten me interested in ancient Egypt earlier than I eventually was. But, reading this now, I found the child abductor scenario to be very dated. However, this was mostly a book about diverse friendships, making history come alive and choosing to live with the circumstances that life gives you. While this book wasn’t perfect, I still thought it was very good and I think that there is probably still an audience out there for it today.

Next up is a reread for me of the first of the Series of Unfortunate Events, The Bad Beginning. To be honest, I liked it but didn’t love it so I wonder how I’ll feel about it this time through. I also might read one or two of the following books as well.

*****

Schedule – October through January

note: dates are not necessarily set in stone – posts may go up a day or two before or after

October 31 – #48 The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket (1999)

November 15 – #21 The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster (1961)

November 30 – #62 Clementine by Sara Pennypacker (2006)

December 15 – #47 Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (1868)

December 30 – Winter Break

January 15 – #28 The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman (1995)

 

100 Chapter Books Project: Two Year Review

photoI can’t believe I’ve already been reading and sharing the Top 100 Chapter Books with you all for two years! I’ve read 44 of the 100 books in this time, 28 of which were first time reads for me. I’ve definitely found some new favorites from the list, gotten to revisit some old favorites (though they sadly didn’t always remain favorites) and, yes, even got through a couple of duds. A couple of the books even inspired readings of entire series and sequels.

Here are the books I’ve read so far, broken down into categories based on how I rated them. You can search for any of them on this site for my full thoughts.

The Great:

#12 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
#15 The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
#18 The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander (read and loved the entire series)
#22 The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper (read and loved the entire series)
#25 The Watsons Go to Birmingham, 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis
#29 The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall
#33 Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien
#41 The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
#42 Gone-Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright (read and loved the sequel)
#53 The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
#54 Half Magic by Edward Eager (read and enjoyed a sequel)
#56 A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
#57 The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken
#60 Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
#66 The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly
#67 A Long Way From Chicago by Richard Peck
#68 The High King by Lloyd Alexander (read and loved the entire series)
#72 Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin
#78 Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild
#83 Ozma of Oz by L. Frank Baum
#93 Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson
#98 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
#100 Love that Dog by Sharon Creech

The Very Good:

#2 A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
#6 Holes by Louis Sachar
#9 The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
#11 When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
#14 The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
#38 Frindle by Andrew Clements
#35 The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo
#73 The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
#85 Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
#87 The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger
#90 The Children of Green Knowe by L.M. Boston

The Okay:

#10 Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
#16 Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
#17 Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
#19 Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
#75 The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright
#81 The Witches by Roald Dahl
#97 The Diamond in the Window by Jane Langton
#58 Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome

The Not-so-Great:

#35 Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume
#74 Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume

As you can see, Judy Blume, though I read and reread her books A LOT of times as a kid, doesn’t impress me these days. I found her books to be dated and thought they contained questionable messages. They also weren’t very memorable except for a couple of key scenes. I was really surprised by this and a tiny bit sad. I enjoyed all of the rest of the books though and, just as they should have since this is a “best” list, over half of the books fell into the “great” category. We have 13 of the Great books on our shelves already and I would love to pick up a few more of them in the near future.

Which of the books that I have read so far is your favorite?

Next up, I’ll be reading The Egypt Game and I anticipate loving it. It seems like just my kind of book, both when I was a kid and now. If you’re still looking for an RIP read, join me!

*****

Schedule – October through December

note: dates are not necessarily set in stone – posts may go up a day or two before or after

October 15 – #79 The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder (1967)

October 31 – #48 The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket (1999)

November 15 – #21 The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster (1961)

November 30 – #62 Clementine by Sara Pennypacker (2006)

December 15 – #47 Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (1868)

December 30 – Winter Break

100 Chapter Books Project: The Hobbit

Hobbit_cover

One of the oldest books on the Top 100 Chapter Books list is J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit from 1938. In fact, there are only a baker’s dozen that are older. And at #14, the only book that is older above it on the list is Anne of Green Gables. So what this means to me is that readers from generation after generation have enjoyed this story, passed it on to their children and students, and kept fond memories of it … either that or there were certain movies that were coming out right around the time that readers were nominating books to this list in 2012.

What it’s about: Just in case anyone has had their head in a non-Hobbit hole for the past decade …

Bilbo Baggins (the titular hobbit) is minding his own business at home in Hobbiton when Gandalf the wizard and a troupe of dwarves show up, expecting him to join them on a quest to regain their home and treasure from the invading dragon Smaug.

Age level: Grade 5+

Best part: Bilbo’s discovery that he is isn’t necessarily the homebody that he was sure he was.

Worst part: The plot moved a bit slow at times for some modern-day kid readers.

Verdict: Buy/Borrow

If recent cinemagoer dollars had anything to say about the quality of literature, then we could safely say that The Hobbit was one of the finest books ever written. However, while reading it with Z, I found that it had its ups and downs. His attention waxed and waned. I still loved every minute of it (again) but I think that he is somewhat spoiled by books that have more outrageous adventures and wackier characters. This book has deeper characters and a plodding pace. Z loved the riddles that Gollum and Bilbo shared and he was amused by the dwarves but our reading stalled when the party reached Beorn’s house. Apparently a man who could transform into a bear was a bit hard for him to wrap his head around. But I think that we had enough fun with the book that Z will look back on it fondly and will be interested in reading it again later in life.

So, I started this project two years ago and the time has absolutely flown. I know some of you are new to the project so I’m going to have a summary next time of the 44 books I’ve read so far. I’ll try one more time to convince you to pick up some of the gems for a kid (or you) to read!

*****
Schedule – September through December
note: dates are not necessarily set in stone – posts may go up a day or two before or after
September 30 – Project Update – Two Years In!
October 15 – #79 The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder (1967)
October 31 – #48 The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket (1999)
November 15 – #21 The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster (1961)
November 30 – #62 Clementine by Sara Pennypacker (2006)
December 15 – #47 Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (1868)
December 30 – Winter Break