It had been years since the Professor had made any use of the area, and the weed-grown yard and open lean-to- shed were empty except for a few pieces of forgotten junk. But as the old man peered through his dirty window, two girls were pulling a much smaller boy through a hole in the fence. (1.9)
The abandoned yard isn't exciting or attractive—in fact, it's overrun with weeds and has junk scattered everywhere. Not exactly your prime adventure spot. Still, when the kids enter through the hole in the fence, they're completely captivated by this new place.
"None of my friends know how to play imagining games the way you do," Melanie said. "Some of them can do it a little bit but they mostly don't have any very good ideas. And a lot of them only like ball games or other things that are already made up. But I like imagining games better than anything." (3.52)
April and Melanie may not go beyond their neighborhood when they explore and play together, but they do explore lots of imaginary worlds and scenarios in their heads. Which, for creative kids like these two, is one of the best ways to go travelling.
It had moved stiffly, that first time, with a reluctant rusty yelp and they peeked through into the hidden and deserted yard. It was fascinating—so weed-grown and forgotten and secret—but then came the most unbelievably wonderful part of all. (4.18)
Exploring the abandoned yard is already exciting enough, but then it gets even better. When Melanie and April set eyes on the bust of Nefertiti, they know that this place was waiting for them to discover and transform into Egypt.
It all started when April found a new book about Egypt, an especially interesting one about the life of a young pharaoh. She passed it on to Melanie, and with it a lot of her interest in all sorts of ancient stuff. Melanie was soon as fascinated by the valley of the Nile as April had been. (4.2)
A single book starts them on their journey to learn and explore everything they can about ancient Egypt. Melanie and April simply cannot get enough of the fascinating history of that time period. Who said books ain't fun?
Most of the time he spent just watching. He had watched the other Egyptians writing and planning and arguing, he had watched an ant hole in the corner of the storage yard, and every once in a while he had watched the little window in one of the walls on the land of Egypt. (14.21)
When the other kids are busy, Marshall spends more time looking around and taking in his surroundings—and therefore knows more than they do about the Professor, and that he's watching them the whole time. Pretty observant for a tot with a giant octopus.
Since this was the first Ceremony for the Dead there was no record scroll to follow, and it was necessary to stop now and then for discussion and new suggestions. Afterwards, of course, Melanie would make a record of the things that were done—and any future Ceremony for the Dead wouldn't have to stop and start. (15.14)
This whole Ceremony of the Dead is completely new and untested by the Egypt Game kids, so they have to do it all from scratch. That's why it takes so long: they don't have a set of instructions to follow as they carry out the ceremony. But that makes it all the better from an exploration perspective, after all.
That afternoon's two hours in Egypt turned out to be mostly a long discussion of the What and How of the Egyptian Oracle. (16.9)
The kids aren't lazy when it comes to creating new parts and aspects of the Egypt Game. They spend lots of time exploring different options for the oracle and determining how exactly the ritual is going to work. If they put the same amount of planning and effort into their schoolwork, they'll be top of the class in no time.
Then, when he'd picked out a nice mysterious quotation, he'd sneaked back to Egypt at night with a flashlight and written it on the back of the paper. "But how'd you get out of the house like that, late at night and in the rain and everything? Did your dad know?" (19.4-5)
Toby is a brave soul when it comes to adding new and exciting aspects to the Egypt Game. He's even willing to sneak into Egypt at night—when no one else is around—to answer the oracle's questions. Sneaky, but it adds to the fun of the game.
Elizabeth was brokenhearted, and it was while they were trying to cheer her up that April and Melanie got the idea for the Ceremony for the Dead. (14.22)
When Elizabeth's pet parakeet dies, the Egypt Game gang knows that they have to find something new to keep her mind off the grief. And that's how they stumble on the idea of doing a ceremony for her deceased pet. For them, the best way to cope with death is to explore how to celebrate it through the eyes of another culture.
[...] And when they were through, they all stood and looked at the temple that they had made themselves, out of ordinary stuff and their own imaginations, and felt—well, maybe a little like Dr. Frankenstein had when he created the monster. They just stood there looking for a while and wondering and then they all went home. (19.39)
All this time, the kids have been exploring the Egypt Game and creating their own rituals and ceremonies. But now, their exploration seems to have led them to a point when the game has taken on a life of its own. Sure, it's exciting, but they're also not exactly sure how to feel about that.