Sunday, February 10, 2008

New Gordon Korman Adventure Is Not a Swindle

We are in the middle of our second book fair for the year. As the librarian, I run the fair each day with the help of my aide. Ok, actually it's a team effort between Yvonne and me, just like all other days in the library. Yvonne is only in the library three and a half hours a day, but without her, the place would not run nearly as smoothly as it does. Library aides in schools are an invaluable resource to the kids and teachers. I am now stepping down off of my soapbox to continue with my entry...

We run our bookfair through Scholastic Books. As part of the set up kit we get a DVD of authors and illustrators talking about their books that will available in the fair. They are usually pretty well done and the kids enjoy seeing what the people behind the books look like. For each of the two fairs I have been involved in, I have made it a point to choose one title from the video, read it quickly and then talk it up. The selection for this fair was a new title by Gordon Korman, called Swindle.

I have been a fan of Korman's since reading his On the Run series featuring the Falconer kids. He is extremely talented in writing books that will keep your interest, filled with twists and cliff hangers. He has several series written for elementary kids, including Everest, Dive and Island. Kids love his sense of adventure, and most like a good series that keeps characters alive through more than one title.

Although Swindle is not part of a series, it has still proven to be a favorite with kids. Griffin Bing finds an old Babe Ruth baseball card in an abandoned house. He and his friend sell it to a card dealer who tells them the card is a reprint and only worth $120. Later Griffin discovers that the dealer, S. Wendle, thus the name Swindle, plans to sell the card for a million dollars.

Since he is known as "the man with a plan," and tired of adults taking kids for granted, Griffin goes into action. He recruits 6 of his eleven year old friends to help him break into Wendle's home and steal the card back. It's sort of a fifth grade Ocean's 11 collection of characters, and, as in most of Korman's books, strong male and female characters, making the story interesting to boys and girls. The girls include a mountain climber, a computer expert, and a dog whisperer. The boys include Griffin, the blow torch operator, his best friend who is good at fitting into tight places, and the school bully for muscle.

The book is full of excitement and is hard to put down. As I told the kids, just when you think you have it figured out, the story changes. Just when you think Griffin and friends are going to be successful, something changes and goes a different direction. In the end, there are consequences for their actions, and the kids do not get away with breaking and entering without punishment. As I was reading, I was a bit worried that the book might be glorifying the crime, and sending "the ends justify the means" message, but Korman does a great job of wrapping up and not enocouraging a life of crime.

I recommended this book to most third and all fourth and fifth graders. I did have some parents report that their third graders were having a bit of trouble keeping all of the characters straight. So you may want to keep this in mind when sharing it with kids.


  1. We just had a book fair and this book was huge hit among my third graders. I appreciate your thoughts and insights, this will help me.

  2. This was popular in our book fair as well, mostly due to the preview video. I have yet to read it, and I may not have because I'm not Korman's biggest fan, but you may have convinced me. Now if I can just get one of my students to lend it to me... :-)

  3. Thank you for the information regarding this book. We are currently holding our book fair and my two boys are interested in this book. I too was concerned with the crime in the book, but now we will definitely take another look. Thanks again!

  4. Are you joking?! Concerned with the crime! Korman is one the most innocent writes outthere, and he would never, ever put something inapropriate in his books. If you ban a classic like this because a kid tries to steal back a baseball card, you are failing to promote reading among children (the most important thing in education) by not letting them read books that interest them. Never do such a thing, or you are failing as both an educater and trustee of your students education.