It was a cracked and chipped plaster reproduction of the famous bust of Nefertiti. The two girls stared at it for a long breathless moment and then they turned to look at each other. They didn't say a word, but with widening eyes and small taut smiles they sent a charge of excitement dancing between them like a crackle of electricity. (1.13)
To most people, a cracked Nefertiti bust would probably just be seen as a piece of junk. But when April and Melanie spot it in the abandoned yard, it's a portal to adventure. And a sign that they should start playing the Egypt Game.
April felt a tiny tingle of excitement. She always felt that way about old stuff. It had been one of the few things that she and Dorothea didn't agree on. Dorothea always said, "I'll take mine new and shiny." (2.20)
Unlike her mother, April is completely in awe of the antiques that she finds in the Professor's shop. Her love of history makes her revel in all of these bits and doodads from ancient times—even though they're nowhere near shiny enough for her mother's liking.
She was just crazy about every part of the Egypt Game, and she was full of admiring comments. For instance, she loved the "Hymn to Isis" that Melanie had made up almost by herself, with just a little bit of help from a book of Egyptian poetry. Elizabeth said it was the most beautiful thing she'd ever heard. And the first time she saw April do a ceremony for Set she kept jumping up and down with half-scared excitement. (8.2)
Having Elizabeth join the Egypt Game is a real morale boost for the whole group. She's completely in awe of everything that Melanie and April have come up with, especially their solemn rituals. And there's no better motivation than someone oohing and aahing over everything you do.
If the secret and mysterious land of Egypt was fascinating in the daytime, it was doubly so at night. Dimly lit by a distant streetlight, two flashlights and a jack-o'-lantern, it was almost too fascinating to bear. (10.34)
Even though the kids are the ones who have set up the land of Egypt, they're still struck by how amazing it is when they return on Halloween night. The whole place has an even more mystical quality than it did when they were just pretending it was an ancient, faraway place. That's pretty dang mystical.
It turned out that Toby wasn't kidding—he really did go for the Egypt Game. He wanted to hear and see everything, and that first afternoon he somehow managed to talk the girl Egyptians into doing all their ceremonies and rituals over for him to watch. (13.28)
Once they're invited to play, the boys totally lose their urge to make fun of the Egypt Game. In fact, Toby sits down and asks the girls everything that they do and know. He respects what they've done so far, and has a thirst for history of his own.
It was the way he threw himself into the part that came as a shock to the girls. He was so different from what he was at school. At school he was Toby the cool-cat sophisticate; and now, suddenly, hew as Toby, the grief-stricken ancient Egyptian. (15.16)
The other kids are kid of amazed at how much Toby throws himself into the Egypt Game. He transforms into a completely new person when he gets into the rituals. Chances are he'd never want the other cool cats at school to see him moaning and shrieking as a character in the game.
The sun was very low and the shade was deep in the back of the temple where the new altar to Thoth had been built. The huge tattered owl seemed to be leaning forward, staring into the incense burner; and as they watched, a final twist of fragrant smoke curled upward like a dancing snake and seemed to wind itself around the head of Thoth. (16.32)
The kids know on a practical level that the oracle isn't real, but that doesn't mean that they're not drawn in by the drama. The altar of Thoth does look pretty impressive. Why not give into the fantasy?
"How about that?" April asked. "Did you write that too?" "Me?" Ken said in amazement. "No way! I didn't have time to write all that. Besides, I don't even know what it means." (17.24-25)
The kids are all shocked—and a bit terrified—when the oracle actually writes back to them. How are they supposed to make sense of this new turn of events? Should they stop playing the game altogether? Or keep their eyes peeled for ghosts with really good handwriting?
It had only been a game. Of course, it had been a very special one, more serious and important and mysterious than most—and a lot more fun. And there had been times when it had seemed to have a mysterious sort of reality about it. But no one had believed, when you came right down to it, that it was anything more than a game. At least, no one had until today. (18.19)
The Egypt Game is very complicated and full of rituals and ceremonies, but the kids never thought that it had a mind of its own. Now they're kind of amazed—and scared—of the unexplained oracle. Spooky!
There was no doubt about it, Toby made a great high priest. The other Egyptians were so caught up in his smooth solemnity and exalted priestly expression that they found themselves almost believing—well, half-believing—that Toby was actually talking to an ancient and powerful being, and that something strange and supernatural was about to happen. (16.25)
Looks like Toby can give April a run for her money when it comes to dramatic flair. He is especially good at acting like a high priest and consulting the all-knowing oracle—so good that it makes the make-believe feel almost real.