Study Guide

The Egypt Game Setting

By Zilpha Keatley Snyder

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College Town Life

The entirety of The Egypt Game takes place in a bustling college town somewhere in California. The college and the town aren't named, but it's clear that the neighborhood is quite diverse, and full of families and children. Them, and one weirdo:

Not long ago in a large university town in California, on a street called Orchard Avenue, a strange old man ran a dusty, shabby store. (1.1)

Poor Professor.

Aside from him, the diversity of the neighborhood is especially striking when it comes to the children from different ethnic backgrounds. For example, April is white, Melanie and Marshall are African-American, and Elizabeth Chung is Chinese. They all live in the exact same apartment building and take their neighborhood's diversity for granted. Sounds like some kind of paradise with everyone getting along. Well, everyone except for the murderer.


When the children first stumble across the deserted yard behind the Professor's store, there isn't much to see:

… they peeked through into the hidden and deserted yard. It was fascinatingso weed-grown and forgotten and secret. (4.18)

The weeds aren't that exciting, but forgotten and secret? Doesn't get much better than that for a game of make-believe. Melanie and April see imagination potential right away and immediately dub it "Egypt." An abandoned yard can be anything at all, if you think of those weeds as full of magic. And so in no time at all, the kids have used their ingenuity to completely transform the yard into ancient Egypt:

The lean-to temple now had two altars and two gods. The birdbath altar had been moved to the right side, while on the left was the altar of Set, the Evil One. Set's altar was made from an egg crate covered by a piece of an old bedspread, and the god himself was a rather pear-shaped figure of dried mud. (6.9)

Egypt is where the kids go to escape their normal lives and where they can pretend to slip into an ancient, magical world.

Want to learn more about the real Ancient Egypt? Check it out: 

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