March 1, 2009

The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder

BOOK #: 14
CHALLENGES: Banned Books, Triple 999
RATING: Mmm...That's Good (3 stars)

The Egypt Game is YA book that tells the tale of a group of children who discover that their imaginations can take them anywhere. It is also the tale of a group of children who have their own personal fears and disappointments, and who also are part of a neighborhood where parents are afraid to let their children out by themselves after an event that shakes the residents to the core. But to play The Egypt Game, the children need to be able to go out independently. The Egypt Game is a game the children come up with that is so steeped in imagination that it is sometimes hard to remember how based on fact and history the game is also. They research Egypt and make the game so realistic that when something strange happens during their play, they have trouble deciding whether or not it is even a game anymore.

This is a book that has been on more than one Banned Books list. As I read I kept this in the back of my mind. I believe the reason parents have felt it was not a good choice is because the book is aimed at 8-13 year olds and the story has a secondary theme about children being in serious danger in their own neighborhood. In my apparently liberal mind, I find this to be a theme children need to be aware of and to talk about in the safety of their family or school.

I have never been a fan of banning books. The themes in banned books are usually themes that parents are simply uncomfortable discussing with their children, not themes in which the children should be protected from. I have found that, in general, children can handle a lot more than adults give them credit for. The key is to open discussion for tough topics in a safe environment and using a book is an incredibly easy way to do this. The tough way to do it is to wait until a situation arises in which discussing it becomes necessary. Then it is too late to discuss how to react, what to do, where to go, who to turn to when they need an adult. Books give us a safe way to broach difficult conversations with our children and each other. In my opinion, it is a waste not to use them and instead to ban the book in hopes of sheltering the child just a little bit longer. Sheltering never helped me, personally, and, if anything, made my life much more challenging than it had to be. As a early childhood educator, I know that children have shown they can handle situations and information that some adults cannot handle, which, in my opinion, are the group of adults who also get books banned.

Of course, you know your child best and know whether he or she is mature enough to handle the topic, but in a lot of cases, your child can handle a lot more, and probably already does handle more, than you give him/her credit for. I challenge everyone to read a banned book with your child.

1 comment:

  1. I actually work in a library that is having some issues now with a group of parents wishing to have two books banned. Thanks for such an eloquent and thoughtful post!


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