The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
originally published 1967
Dell, 6th printing, 1986
Genre: Children’s lit, mystery, suspense
Jacket copy: The first time Melanie Ross meets April Hall, she’s not sure they’ll have anything in common. But she soon discovers that they both love anything to do with ancient Egypt. When they stumble upon a deserted storage yard behind the A-Z Antiques and Curio Shop, Melanie and April decide it’s the perfect spot for the Egypt Game.
Before long there are six Egyptians instead of two. After school and on weekends they all meet to wear costumes, hold ceremonies, and work on their secret code.
Everyone thinks it’s just a game, until strange things begin happening tot he players. Has the Egypt Game gone too far?
Book report: When I’m ready for bed, I read a little. Sometimes, when I’m reading a massive tome (think The Game of Kings), I’ll pick up a lighter volume, usually YA, to read before bed so that I can properly relax without thinking too much. But there are certain books I shouldn’t read before bed, because then I don’t go to sleep. Such is the case with The Egypt Game, one of the many books I appropriated from elementary school teachers (sorry, Ms Kunishima!), which I picked up just before going to sleep, and them promptly read all the way through. It’s just that engaging. And good. Not to mention suspenseful. When things start happening in Egypt, it gives me chills.
Even though I’ve read it literally dozens of times since I was six, and sort of know exactly what happens, Snyder is just so dang good at creating tension and atmosphere that I’m gripped by it and cannot put it down. I haven’t read much else by her, but I can say definitively that The Egypt Game and Eyes in the Fishbowl are two of the finest examples of juvenile suspense fiction out there. And they were both penned back in the Sixties. Why was there such great kid fiction in the Sixties? Seriously: Harriet the Spy, From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, The Outsiders (which I haven’t read, but I hear it rules), A Wrinkle in Time, The Pigman, etc etc etc, so on and so forth. Need I say more? Read the rest of this entry »
It’s Not the End of the World by Judy Blume
originally published 1972
Atheneum Books, 25th printing, 2001
Jacket copy: Karen couldn’t tell Mrs Singer why she had to have her Viking diorama out of the sixth-grade showcase. She felt like yelling, To keep my parents from getting divorced. But she couldn’t say it, and the whole class was looking at her anyway.
Karen’s world was ending. Her father had moved out of the house weeks before; now he was going to Las Vegas to get divorced and her mother was pleased! She had only a few days to get the two of them together in the same room. Maybe, if she could, they would just forget about the divorce. Then the Newman family could be its old self again–maybe. But Karen knew something she didn’t know last winter: that sometimes people who shouldn’t be apart are impossible together.
So she felt like yelling at Mrs Singer. And then Mrs Singer did something surprising …
Book Report: What a difference a generation makes. When Judy Blume first published It’s Not the End of the World, the world was a very different place, and divorce was not unheard of, but still unusual. Second wave feminism had hit, and starting in the late Sixties, the no-fault divorce revolution was causing sweeping changes in American families. To me growing up in the Eighties, divorce was no big deal–my parents had been divorced throughout my entire conscious life, and lots of my peers had divorced parents. But for Karen, it’s a very BFD indeed, the biggest one she’s faced. I’m sure it was very helpful reading for lots of kids back in the day–and that it still is–though my monstrous and savage little self would have wondered what all the fuss was about. So while I intellectually understood that it’s a big deal for some people to go through a divorce, my understanding has been tempered by what I read, including Blume’s treatment of the matter in INtEotW and other novels, especially Just as Long as We’re Together. Read the rest of this entry »
The Green Flash, and Other Tales of Horror, Suspense, and Fantasy by Joan Aiken
Holt Rinehart & Winston, 1971
Genre: Suspense, horror, fantasy, children’s lit, short stories
Jacket copy: A small self-contained child who dreams reality; the ghost of a love-struck bicycle-riding night watchman; a canary who bears an acute resemblance to the younger sister of Charles II; an old lady, hard of hearing, almost blind, but with a murderous sense of smell–these are just a few of the characters you’ll encounter in this spine-tingling, mind-boggling collection by Joan Aiken.
The impact of the tales is varied and ranges all the way from grisly horror through old-fashioned mystery to comic fantasy. It’s a book to curl up with and enjoy on a dark, rainy night, a book which continues to astound from the first page to the very last.
Book report: So, though it’s been a couple of years since I found out that Joan Aiken had written a whole mess of books in concordance with The Wolves of Willoughby Chase (the Wolves Chronicles, they’re sometimes known as)–a shocking discovery for someone who’d read and re-read TWoWC like it was her job–I hadn’t read anything else by her til last winter’s Shivers for Christmas, which included a really excellent little story, “The Ferry.” I not sure why, but I don’t read short stories all that often, though I like them a great deal (especially TALES OF TERROR), but the title of The Green Flash was well-nigh irresistible. I mean, how evocative is that?
It is such an odd little collection of stories, ranging from the, well, grisly to the subtly disquieting, and from pathos to humor. And for the most part, they’re very, very good. I don’t think I disliked any of the stories, but I couldn’t say that I liked them all. Not because they were bad or uninteresting, but because of that lingering sense of disquiet (“Summer by the Sea” has taken me three readings to come to terms with, and it still makes me uncomfortable) they invoke. But that’s a good thing; I’d much rather puzzle over a story and how it made me feel than simply forget it. Read the rest of this entry »
Jane-Emily & Witches’ Children by Patricia Clapp
originally published 1969 and 1982
Harper, 7th printing, 2007
Genre: Horror, suspense, historical fiction
Jacket copy: Emily was a selfish, willful, hateful child who died before her thirteenth birthday. But that was a long time ago.
Jane is nine years old and an orphan when she and her young Aunt Louisa come to spend the summer at Jane’s grandmother’s house, a large, mysterious mansion in Massachusetts. Then one day . . . Jane stares into a reflecting ball in the garden—and the face that looks back at her is not her own.
Many years earlier, a child of rage and malevolence lived in this place. And she never left. Now Emily has dark plans for little Jane—a blood-chilling purpose that Louisa, just a girl herself, must battle with all her heart, soul, and spirit . . . or she will lose her innocent, helpless niece forever.
One of the most adored ghost stories of all time is available again after thirty years—to thrill and chill a new generation!
During the winter of 1692, when the young girls of Salem suddenly find themselves subject to fits of screaming and strange visions, some believe that they have seen the devil and are the victims of witches.
Book report: It’s funny: Though both I’m Deborah Sampson: A Soldier in the War of the Revolution and Witches’ Children were favorites of mine in elementary school, I don’t recall ever happening upon Jane-Emily in the Mililani Library. And don’t doubt me; I read Deborah Sampson (about a girl who dresses as a boy and FIGHTS IN THE REVOLUTION) probably seventy-odd times in second and third grade, and around that time Witches’ Children introduced me to the joys of both historical research and the occult shelf in the Children’s section. Actually, a decade or so later, when I was in The Crucible (Ann Putnam, Sr, whut whut!) and our director was going over historical notes with us, I brought up the cake Tituba makes of rye meal and the girls’ urine (my director–Stephen Clark–was nonplussed at that detail being in a children’s book). Yes, a good ten years later, I still vividly remembered that detail, and it was because the book was THAT good. But yeah, Jane-Emily? Never heard of it, so of course it went on my Shelf Discovery reading list, though there it only merited an Extra Credit mention. If Patricia Clapp wrote it, I was going to read it. Read the rest of this entry »
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken
originally published 1962
Delacourte, 1st edition, 2000
Genre: Children’s classic, historical fiction, COVENS
Book Report: Wicked wolves and a grim governess threaten Bonnie and her cousin Sylvia when Bonnie’s parents leave for a sea voyage. Left in the care of the cruel Miss Slighcarp, the girls can hardly believe what is happening to their lovely, once happy home. The servants are dismissed, the furniture is sold, and, dressed in rags, Bonnie and Sylvia are sent to a prison-like school for orphans. It seems as if the endless hours of drudgery will never cease.
With the help of Simon the gooseboy and his flock, they escape. But where will they go? And how will they ever get Willoughby Chase free from the clutches of the evil Miss Slighcarp?
OH SHIT YEAH. I used to have a copy of The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, and I read it ALL THE TIME. (What the hell happened to that book?) I set so many stories in Aiken’s world, and even had a long-running series of dreams in which I was in a summer camp overrun by giant wolves a la TWoWC (there were tunnels from cabin to cabin, and sometimes we traveled by rooftop). I still want to doze off in a cart full of geese and play with a giant stuffed pony with crystal eyes. Who wouldn’t? So it’s obvious that I was delighted to read Laura Lippman’s treatment of TWoWC in Shelf Discovery and find that I was not alone in my love for spunky orphans. Read the rest of this entry »
Moccasin Trail by Eloise Jarvis McGraw
originally published 1952
Puffin Newberry Library, 2nd printing, 1988
Genre: Young adult, children’s lit, juvenalia, Oregon history, adventure story
Synopsis & Review: Jim Keath has lived for six years as a Crow Indian when he learns that his two younger brothers and a sister are journeying west to take up land. Although Jim finds it difficult to fit in with the family he hasn’t seen since childhood, and though they are wary and distrustful of him, Jim feels his duty is at their side. But slowly, as they survive the dangerous trek west, the perils of frontier life, and the kidnapping of their younger brother, Jim and his family realize that the only way to survive is to accept each other and truly reunite the family.
At the age of ten, Jim Keath had run away from his Missouri home to follow his Uncle Adam Russell into the mountains of the West. A bear’s attack separated Jim from his uncle, and though he killed the bear, it nearly killed him, too. Only the compassion of the Crow who found him and adopted him into their tribe saved Jim’s life. He spent the next six years with the Crow, before a vague sense of dissatisfaction sent him out into the mountains on his own. Trapping beaver with a friend, mountain man Tom Rivers, Jim wanders through the Rockies, unsure of what he seeks. Shortly before winter, a letter finds its way to Jim, from his younger brother Jonnie, who he hasn’t seen or heard from since he left home all those years before.
From the time I was three till I was thirteen, I spent every summer save one with my dad on the Mainland. He lived with my stepmother and my little sister in Portland, Oregon; Gina owned Beaverton Books, and then later worked for the Oregon Historical Society (don’t worry, this is relevant). My dad liked to think of himself as the Wild Man of the Western Wilderness, or at least, that was my perception; he had a lot of his identity and self-image tied up in the manly arts of fishing, backpacking, and camping (curiously, not hunting), and as a consequence, we took many camping trips on those summer visits.
We camped all over the West—at least, in what he considered the West (California was never a part of the equation, nor was the Southwes) exploring the Pacific Coast Ranges and the Rockies, both American and Canadian. Sometimes I hated it, the drudgery of campsite chores and the inconveniences of reading by flashlight, or cleaning dishes and going potty in the wilderness. But most of the time, I loved it. I loved seeing places utterly unlike Hawai’i (though I would invariably get irate when he’d disparage Hawaii’s mountain ranges; they’re DIFFERENT is all, Dad! Jeez!). I loved being so far from the civilized or developed world, miles and miles from the next human being. I loved the quiet, the sounds of the trees or the wind or a nearby crick, of animals moving through the brush (Is that Sasquatch?! RUN!). Read the rest of this entry »