Thursday, December 31, 2009

Looking for Newbery - Slob

I originally picked up this book for one reason, and one reason only... I was hungry, and it had a picture of an Oreo on the front cover. Unfortunately, I took it home and it's been sitting in a pile in my office until yesterday when I realized it was on the Starred Book List that Bookshelfer compiled. Granted, it was pretty far down the list, but it caught my attention.

Regardless, I'm really glad I read Slob by Ellen Potter. The main characters deviate from any kind of typical and I enjoyed them immensely (with one exception). The main character, Owen, has started to overeat in the past two years, and has become quite large (57% fatter than other kids his age). Potter does a fabulous job dropping clues throughout the story as to why that happened. Owen is also quite the inventor. Owen's younger sister, Jeremy, is part of a group of girls who have decided to get equal rights by adopting boys' names. Owen's neighbor is Nima, who grew up in India and has just recently moved to New York City. Nima makes his living by selling momas, a type of dumpling, from a cart on the sidewalk. One other very important character in this story is Mason Ragg. One side of Mason's face looks deformed, he works with a special aide from time to time, and everyone at school believes he carries a switchblade under his sock. Finally, there is the P.E. teacher who is quite detestable. Because I found him so unlikeable and downright mean, I was glad that Potter gave him the name Mr. Wooly. He was the epitome of a teacher who wants to degrade students, not teach them. Yuck!

This ecclectic cast of characters each has their own issues, but the way Potter intertwines their lives is quite interesting. There seems to be a surprise awaiting the reader at every twist and turn. The details of the characters' lives are given to us a little bit at a time. There are several times I found myself saying, "You're kidding me!" I honestly did not see certain plot twists coming. The reason the book has its title is nothing that I expected, but it makes for a very poignant ending to the book. The word I found myself saying about Potter's style, pacing, and plot twists was "subtle". She did a great job of misdirecting the readers' thoughts about the characters and what happens to them.

I'm not sure Slob is a book that will win the Newbery, however, it is most definitely a book that should be in classrooms. It would make for great conversation about stereotypes, about looking at more than just the outside of a person, and what motivates characters to do the things they do. Slob is a very good story.

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