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Book Reviews, Contemporary Realistic Fiction, Middle Grade Readers, Read-Aloud Suggestions

SWINDLE by Gordon Korman

As with so much of Korman’s work the characters in Swindle are genuine in their voice and behavior.  They come to life as three-dimensional individuals, jumping off the page from the very first chapter.  Griffin Bing is the main character.  He is known as “the man with the plan” because he is very methodical about any project he undertakes.  And Griffin is bursting with plans.  Most of them center around obtaining the respect young people deserve from adults for their opinions and ideas.

At the opening of the story Griffin and his best friend, Ben, are in the process of executing one of Griffin’s “plans.”  They are committed to spending the night in the old Rockford house which will be torn down the next morning, as a way to protest the fact that the City refused to even listen to Griffin’s detailed (and highly researched) skate park proposal for the site.  Unable to sleep once Ben is snoring Griffin does some exploring and discovers an old baseball card in a desk cubby.

Griffin’s father has recently left his job and poured all their savings into the development of his invention, the SmartPick.  Consequently, the Bings are struggling financially and Griffin knows it.  Because he knows that some old baseball cards can be valuable he takes the one he has found to S. Wendell Palomino, the proprietor of the local memorabilia shop for an estimate.  Palomino lies to Griffin and Ben and cheats them out of the card.

Outraged by Palomino’s dishonesty, Griffin embarks on the creation of a plan to both reap justice and solve his family’s financial problems.  He designs a brilliant scheme that utilizes the special talents of himself, Ben, and several of their fellow students.  The caper unfolds with suspense, humor, some unexpected twists and a wholly satisfying conclusion!

One of the things that sets this particular story apart from others like it is that although the ending is theoretically predictable (in that no one dies or has horrendously violent, unpleasant consequences), the way in which Korman accomplishes it is the opposite of anything resembling a cliche.  He maintains his exquisite ability to tap into both the humor and the greatness that are so evident in young people Griffin’s age.  He celebrates all aspects of his characters–and rightfully so!  Griffin’s recognition and insights into his own feelings and motivations make this a FANTASTIC read-aloud for home or classroom or as an independent reading choice.

 

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