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Swear to Howdy Hardcover – October 14, 2003


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Hardcover: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers; First Edition edition (October 14, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375825053
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375825057
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 5.6 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,655,203 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Russell Cooper is lucky. When he and his family move to Lost River, a toothy-grinned boy named Joey Banks takes him under his wing. Joey makes everything into an adventure--cavorting in his favorite swimming hole, target practice with his .22, catching frogs, and playing tricks on his annoying older sister Amanda Jane. When their boyish pranks would go awry, as they often did, Joey would swear "Rusty-boy" to secrecy: "Seems like Joey and me were always making pacts. Lots of pacts, leading up to that last one. 'Rusty,' he'd say to me. 'I swear to howdy, if you tell a soul...'" Van Draanen's tales of boyhood antics told by a boy with a down-home way of talking, brings back the spirit of Huck Finn, and, as in Huckleberry Finn, darker themes lurk beneath the surface.

Joey lives in fear of his father's temper (and the switch), and he creates elaborate schemes to conceal anything that might cause his dad to blow, from replacing a dead pet goldfish to burying the body of the family cat he accidentally kills when his dad orders him to shoot some pesky squirrels. When one of Joey and Rusty's pranks turns tragic, the two boys are eaten alive by their horrible secret, kept so by a sacred blood oath of friendship. Author of the award-winning Sammy Keyes mysteries series and Flipped, Van Draanen knows how to tell a story--keeping the narrative light on its feet while dramatically portraying the idea that actions have consequences and keeping secrets can be deadly. (Ages 12 and older) --Karin Snelson

From School Library Journal

Grade 5-8-Van Draanen couches valuable lessons in an odd mix of humor and angst in this unusual and disturbing book. When Russell meets Joey, he finds himself with an immediate and trouble-bound friend. In old-fashioned country-boy humor, the two get into a variety of scrapes including putting a frog into Joey's sister's underwear drawer and buying replacement fish to prevent Joey's drunken, abusive father from finding out the fish have died. Each time, they seal the pact of silence by cutting their fingers and mixing their blood (not a good idea). But when one stunt goes horribly wrong and Joey's sister dies, Russell has to decide whether to keep his pact or to tell what has happened. The story reads like a series of episodes rather than a cohesive whole, and time seems elastic, moving quickly and slowly in alternate bursts. Once the boys' prank results in tragedy, everything speeds up, rushing through months, and distancing readers, before coming to a somewhat inevitable conclusion. While the fully realized characters are certainly colorful, and the story is a quick read, the sharp turn from simple humor to the horror of guilt and death cause the book to lend itself more to group discussion than to general pleasure reading.
Amy Lilien-Harper, The Ferguson Library, Stamford, CT
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

"Through writing, I open up my heart and soul in ways I never could in everyday life. The joy, the pain, the wonder and loneliness I felt in growing up, meld into stories which I hope will help kids believe in themselves and have compassion for those around them."--Wendelin Van Draanen

Wendelin Van Draanen is the winner of the 1999 Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Children's Mystery Book for Sammy Keyes and the Hotel Thief. Sammy Keyes and the Search for Snake Eyes is a 2003 Edgar Award nominee.


Visit Wendelin Van Draanen's Web site at www.wendelinvandraanen.com for the lastest on The Gecko and Sticky, Sammy Keyes, Shredderman, and more!

How in the world did I wind up writing a book about a kleptomaniacal, talking gecko lizard? I'm the first to admit-talking animals are not my thing. First person, realistic fiction-that's what I like. And yet, after Sticky appeared as a sidekick television character in my Shredderman series and uttered his first "Holy guaco-tacarole!" I was hooked. He's so funny. And so full of mischief.
I always develop a backstory for my characters to get to know them. Even if they're secondary characters, I have to understand their background and motivations before I let them into the story. The premise of the third Shredderman book (Meet the Gecko) is that a television crew comes to town to shoot an episode, and Shredderman helps out the star of the show. Not wanting to deal with the legal complications of using a real television show, I made up my own: The Gecko and Sticky. In the process, I came up with the hero (Dave Sanchez-a boy who has the "superpower" of being able to walk up walls, and is known as the Gecko), the sidekick (Sticky who is, as you already know, a talking gecko with . . . h'hem, sticky fingers), the villain (the deadly, diabolical, and definitely demented Damien Black), and Damien's sidekicks (the Bandito Brothers, who are, in fact, not brothers, but a thieving mariachi band).
It was definitely wilder than anything I'd come up with before, but hey-it was just a made-up TV show, right?
Ah, how diabolically infectious made-up TV shows can be!
Sticky, you see, got under my skin. His "Ay-ay-ay"s and his "What the jalapeno was that?" and his "You cut me to the quick, senor" enchanted me, and I was sorry when his role in the Shredderman books was over.
After the Shredderman quartet was complete, I began getting lots of fan mail from kids (and teachers) asking me to please write more Shredderman books. It was tempting, because I love Nolan and the gang. But I'd completed my mission with the quartet; so instead, I started writing The Gecko and Sticky.
My first attempt resulted in an over 200-page manuscript. That was closer to a Sammy Keyes novel than a Shredderman book. So I hacked it up, threw it out, and started all over.
My next try had me at 150 pages-still too long, and something about it wasn't quite right. So I chucked it and asked myself what in the world I was thinking, writing in the voice of a lizard.
But then on a flight from New York to California, I started hearing a voice. It wasn't my voice. Or the guy snoring in the seat beside me. It was, you know, a voice. One in my head.
Yeah, we writers hear them, and although we will almost certainly deny it if you press us about it, we also listen. It's how I wrote Swear to Howdy; how Bryce appeared in Flipped; where Holly's poems came from in Runaway . . . and it's how the narrator took over the storytelling for The Gecko and Sticky.
It's a man's voice in my head. (Okay, I concede that I might need some help.) But he's funny as all get-out, and I like to listen to him. He's the voice of someone who loves the art of storytelling; of someone who will hold a child's wide-eyed attention as he shares the wild antics of a boy and his mischievous gecko; of someone I'd plead, "Just one more chapter, please?"
So I hope that explains it, because I really must go. He's talking to me again and I've got to get back to Dave and Sticky. They are, after all, in the midst of some deep, diabolical doo-doo . . .

Customer Reviews

This is a quick read, as it took me a few hours.
Kenny Centazzo
It is a very funny book, and close to the end it gets sad and dramatic.
awsome
I recommend that young and older adults read this book.
Lori

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on January 22, 2007
Format: Paperback
I am a sixth grader student and our teacher read us the book Swear to Howdy. This book is realistic fiction, which is set in the modern time. I liked this book because it was very funny and I wanted to know what happened next.

This book is for Middle School students or up. It teaches you about friendships and how to make your own decisions. The two main characters Rusty and Joey like to prank other people. Joey tries to force Rusty into a horrible prank, which turns the other way around. At the end of the book there's a little twist at the end.

I would recommend this book to a middle school student who likes a book with some humor in it. I don't think this is a great book for an Elementary Student of younger because it has some adult humor in it. If I like this book I think you might like the book Joey Pigza series by Jack Gantos.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on February 20, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Swear to Howdy is a story about Rusty and Joey, two boys who are neighbors and quickly become friends. They pull pranks and run around together, doing normal boy things and having fun. Then one of Joey's pranks goes too far, and it results in a tragedy. It takes Rusty and Joey and both their families a long time to recover from the horrible accident. Swear to Howdy surprised me because by looking at the cover, I thought it would be a happy story because it was bright yellow. But it turned out to be pretty sad in a lot of parts. It ends all right, but only in the last 2 or 3 pages or so. Overall I think it was pretty well-written, but I would have liked the story to be more optimistic. It has a well-developed plot and storyline, and it kept me interested because I read it in one afternoon. I would reccommend this book for other kids to read, but don't read it if you want a really happy book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on February 23, 2007
Format: Paperback
Swear to Howdy by Wendelin Van Draanen is a book about two boys named Joey and Rusty who are always playing tricks and getting into trouble like plinking and swapping fish. But when something tragic strikes, it haunts them forever. There is a reason why Joey keeps secrets from his dad. It is because his dad has a temper problem.

I like this book because it teaches about friendship and sometimes you keep secrets no matter how bad they are.

by Brent
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By awsome on October 13, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I think that Wendelin Van Draanen did a very good job explaining and describing Swear to Howdy. For example, when Joey found Tank, his pet frog, he picked him up and he pooped all over the front of Joey's shirt. They said it looked like green tomatoes. It is a very funny book, and close to the end it gets sad and dramatic.

I liked this book because I could see the pictures in my head and I didn't get lost once. I think that teens would understand the book better than younger kids, because it has some words that younger kids wouldn't understand.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on November 19, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This book is one of the best books I've ever read. It had a perfect mix of funny, sad, and meaningful text that all comes together to form an excellent book. If you're a teenager looking for a good read, then swear to howdy you'll read this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By robin on October 12, 2004
Format: Hardcover
The book Swear to Howdy by Wendlin Van Draanen was really interesting. It had me wanting to read another chapter everytime I quit reading, and it had a lot of drama in it. Joey and Rusty are best friends and they lived next door to each other. They both had an older sister, and they were the same age, and they were best friends. Rusty and Joey were always trying to do something to their sisters. One night they wanted to do something and they went to far.

I really liked the book a lot. It is probably for teenagers and adults because they would understand it more. This book made me realize that you should think before you do something and make sure it won't hurt anybody.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By ravens on October 13, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Swear to Howdy was a very dramatic, funny, and exciting book to read. The book is about a boy named Rusty who moves to town and he becomes friends with another boy named Joey. Joey and Rusty have exciting adventures and some bad things happen in this book. One of there advenures is that they go shooting squirrels and end up shooting some thing they weren't supposed to shoot.

I like this book and I think a lot of people would like it if they read it. I just wanted to keep reading and not stop. This book would interest any teenager,boy or girl. This book made me think that you need to keep your friends close and don't lie.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on February 23, 2007
Format: Paperback
Swear to Howdy is a pretty good book. The author is Wendelin Van Draanen, and this book is realistic fiction. This book is about two boys named Joey and Rusty who get in a lot of trouble at a school, a house, and a river and swear to each other they won't tell.

This book has some adult humor so it isn't for little kids. The frog using the bathroom on the little girl was a little too much.

I really liked this book, I give it a four out of five, I swear to howdy!
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