When I turned ten, a friend of mine gave me a pack of five books by various authors for my birthday. One of them was The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder. I loved that book! I read it over and over for a couple years, and then eventually abandoned it as I got older. I never forgot it, though. About a year ago, I came across a copy of it and reread it. I realized, in rereading it, how much of an effect Zilpha Keatley Snyder’s writing has had on my own writing, and on my reading habits. There are elements in The Egypt Game that I find myself looking for in many books that I read. There were whole passages that I apparently had memorized at one point, because every word seemed familiar and comfortable despite not reading it for nearly two decades.
I never read any other Zilpha Keatley Snyder book. I’m not sure I ever even encountered another one until yesterday, when we were at the thrift store letting the kids pick out a book. Jason came by a pristine copy of The Headless Cupid, and I knew immediately that I was willing to pay the 69 cents to get it.
I was not disappointed. I can’t say I like The Headless Cupid as much as The Egypt Game, but there’s a certain amount of nostalgia in that, plus the fact that this is definitely a children’s book, and I never read it as a child. The book is about a family who has to deal with their widowed father getting remarried, and also deal with the stepsister that comes to live with them. The stepsister, Amanda, is into witchcraft and the occult (in a very 12-year-old-like way) and is also very upset about the new living arrangements (her parents are divorced). She periodically tries to integrate into the family and get revenge on her mother and all the other sorts of things you’d expect a 12-year-old to do. There’s a certain element of the supernatural which gives the book a pleasant atmosphere (that’s my childlike love coming out) but not so much as to be an RL Stine book. The book deals with a lot of mature subjects, especially for the early 70s when it came out. And apparently, it’s been on banned/debated/challenged lists because the kids are practicing “witchcraft.” To be perfectly fair to the book, I’m not sure anyone who banned it actually read it. If they had, they might not have gotten so distorted an impression.
I love Zilpha Keatley Snyder’s writing. It’s well crafted, and it’s really amazing to literally see where you got your ground in writing and reading tastes. This book deserves its Newbery Honor Award.