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The Boy Who Lost His Face Paperback – April 15, 1997

3.8 out of 5 stars 83 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Ever since his best friend Scott dropped him to join a popular group, David feels certain he's been cursed. He follows along when the group harasses kind, old Mrs. Bayfield, but afterward he is overcome with guilt. And that's when the curse strikes: David insults his mother, cracks a window and embarrasses himself in class. It's bad enough that Scott's group excludes and taunts David, but the worst moment is when Tori, a girl he likes, sees his pants fall down. Two new friends help David to stand up to Scott's devious friends, rid himself of the curse and find the courage to ask Tori out. The story culminates with a hilarious rumble and a poignant realization. Sachar captures awkward junior high school experiences with humor and sensitivity. Readers will empathize with David's troubles and cheer his triumphs in this delightful, funny book. Ages 10-14.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

Grade 5-7-- The jacket art of a young man's horrified surprise as his pants fall down while he's talking to a girl in the school corridor captures much about the book, particularly its wit and humor (he's lost his pants, not his face) and its exploration of exaggerated situations that reveal the very real and excruciating angst of middle schoolers. David Ballinger fears being uncool, not fitting in, and wants so much to be popular that he helps some classmates attack an elderly woman and steal her cane. When odd things begin to happen to him, he believes the woman to be a witch who has cursed him, and his genuine remorse causes him to punish himself. By not being assertive, by not standing up for what he believes, he loses face. He grows in the course of the novel, and is able to get his "face" back, albeit somewhat bruised. Ample dialogue (including name calling, street language, and obscenities) and brief chapters will make this a book for which young patrons will reach. Unfortunately, the story is weakened by the tagged-on final chapter, set 150 years in the future, in which David Ballinger is revered, and his birthday has been made a school holiday. --Connie Tyrrell Burns, Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, ME
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 570L (What's this?)
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Yearling; Reprint edition (April 15, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780679886228
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679886228
  • ASIN: 0679886222
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 7.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (83 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #251,208 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

author spotlight
Newbery Award-winning author Louis Sachar is the creator of the entertaining Marvin Redpost books as well as the much-loved There's a Boy in the Girls' Bathroom, winner of 17 child-voted state awards.

Louis Sachar's book Holes, winner of the 1999 Newbery Medal, the National Book Award, and the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, is also an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, an ALA Quick Pick, an ALA Notable Book, and was made into a major motion picture.

A Few Words From Louis Sachar
Of all the characters from Holes, why did you choose to revisit Armpit in SMALL STEPS?
LS: I tend to write about underdogs. It seemed to me that life would be tough for an African-American teenager from a low-income family with a criminal record. Especially someone stuck with the name, "Armpit."
Although this new book is about a character from Holes, the two books are very different. How would you explain to a fan of Holes what to expect from SMALL STEPS?
LS: I can't. I'm no good at describing my books. Holes has been out now for seven years, and I still can't come up with a good answer when asked what that book is about.
Could you imagine future novels about any of the other boys?
Do you think about what Stanley is up to now?
LS: I don't think too much about Stanley or Zero. I left them in a good place. Although money doesn't bring happiness, or give meaning to someone's life, the problems Stanley and Zero face now (and I'm sure they do face many problems) are less interesting than those faced by someone like Armpit.
Plenty of teenagers fantasize about what it would be like to be a young rock star.
You portray it as lonely. Tell us about that decision.
LS: The media tends to portray the teenage world as one where drinking and sex is taken for granted. In fact, I think most teenagers don't drink, are unsure of themselves, and feel awkward around members of the opposite sex. I thought it was important to show Kaira, a rock star no less, as such a person. Her situation, in many ways, is made more difficult as she has no social contact with anyone her age. She is trapped in a world of agents, record producers, and hanger-ons.
I'm imagining that off all the books you've written, Holes is the one that has changed your life the most. Not only did it win the Newbery Medal, it's also simply a popular sensation. Is this assessment accurate? What is this novel's continuing impact on your life? Would you consider it the book that you are proudest of?
LS: Not counting Small Steps, I think Holes is my best book, in terms of plot, and setting, and the way the story revealed itself. It hasn't changed my life, other than that I have more money than I did before I wrote it. I'm still too close to Small Steps to compare it to Holes.
Why do you typically write only two hours each day?
LS: Small steps. Every time I start a new novel it seems like an impossible undertaking. If I tried to do too much too quickly, I would get lost and feel overwhelmed. I have to go slow, and give things a chance to take form and grow.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on July 28, 1998
Format: Paperback
I have enjoyed all the Sachar books. This one ventures into controvesial language and behavior and nervous parents and teachers will worry that children will use this language inappropriately. I read this book to my seven year old and not only did he love it, but he found the discussion of such controversial subjects very thought provoking. There is a lengthy discussion between friends and parents about giving somebody the finger. What it means, how context influences meaning, who is aware or unaware of its meaning. I don't know where else kids are going to find such thoughtful and provocative discussions. Certainly not from parents and teachers. Thank goodness for Louis and his brave publisher. This book connects to kids in a dramatic and moving way, and best of all shows that reading can be a real key into understanding and thinking. Kudos to Sachar!!!
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By A Customer on February 27, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I picked up a copy of "The Boy Who Lost His Face" because I quite enjoyed Sachar's other books (specifically, "Holes" was brilliant). This ended up being one of his finest works, insightful and funny. The book does use 'naughty' language at parts, but it is used to aid the story (for example, the main character and his father ponder over why certain acts are considered vulgar, and others aren't)... and it's nothing you won't see on prime-time television.
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By A Customer on December 17, 2000
Format: Paperback
The parent in me says that this book should be required reading for all kids. The kid in me (what's left of it) knows that making it required would be exactly the wrong thing to do if you want kids to read it. I want kids to read this! For the last two years, I've been reading to my kids. We've read all the Harry Potters, C.S. Lewis, the first book of the Lord of the Rings, Holes - another Louis Sachar book, and highly recommended - and more. This book went over the best, by far, of all of them. My 9-year old daughter loves it, my 14-year old son, as well as our 20-year old and my wife laughing from across the room. We're all transported into this teenage-world where you are paralyzed by your concern about what everybody might think about you. There is something so rich about this book, like crocuses emerging from the snow. It shows how "standing up for yourself" can have many different forms and you can find your own. (Note re the language used in this book: my kids were extremely impressed with it.)
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Format: Paperback
I've always loved Louis Sachar's books, and this one wasn't different. Even though it has some bad language, some kids do talk like that. David has a lifelike problem, and the old lady and the curse add fun to it. I love all the funny things that happen to him, like his pants falling down, or dropping the test tube in science. All the characters are unique and interesting. I would suggest this book to anyone except younger kids. I really liked it!
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Format: Paperback
This is reasonably entertaining and thought provoking book but not Sachar's best work. I much more highly recommend "Holes" and "A Boy in the Girl's Bathroom". Although there are a couple of inventive plot twists here, and the book does provoke thought regarding our value systems and human interaction, the middle portion of the book during which the "curse" was inflicted upon the main character seemed to drag a bit. In addition this book was not nearly as humorous as the two previously mentioned novels. As far as the obscenities are concerned, if the liberal use of four letter words and protracted discussions surrounding the significance of "flipping someone off" are not inappropriate then there is no concern. Personally, I felt obligated to "censor" certain sections as I read the book aloud to my nine year old daughter. I would recommend the book for 12 year olds and up.
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Format: Paperback
I remember discovering this book in my 5th grade classroom library. It was a big, secret hit because it had SWEARING in it, which of course my friends and I thought was hilarious. But it was hilarious because it was in a BOOK, in the school library no less. God knows we knew the words already, and we certainly knew how to use them. For a while it was fun to just remember the pages with the dirty words and giggle over them, but eventually I decided to sit down and actually READ the book. And it made a big enough impact on me that I still remember it now, eight years later. Louis Sachar must remember middle school better than most of his peers, because he writes about how it is. Middle school students adore his books because they're accurate; kids know when they're being talked down to. Middle schoolers, yes, even your precious 9-12 year olds, know how to swear, know how to fight, and know how to flip off old ladies. Kids are not nice, not in the least, and at least Louis Sachar can write a book that they can relate to. It's pointless to suggest that a book aimed at this age group should be held responsible for upholding any grand morality. When you're 12, you really don't care. But if it's a book that kids will want to read, that teaches how to stand up for yourself and appreciate the friends you have, well... isn't that the point?
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I'm shocked that parents are giving this 1 stars just because of the issues and language in the book. Some say this isn't what your child should be reading. Please, grab one of those "classics" that you may know...same thing: Language and risky topics. All your books aren't going to give schmaltzy crap. Your child needs to read, and once he grows older, he needs to dive deeper into it. Would you rather him learn the language from your local television?
Anyways, "The Boy Who Lost His Face" is actually a real-life depicition of a normal suburbia...well, in 1989. Thank god Sachar didn't put any recent refrences...that would make it outdated. The language and profanity, as well as risky topics, add into it. Someone says that "the excuse of 'This is how children act' is wrong" (or something to that extent). Please, PLEASE learn to jump into real life. This IS real life. That could be why this one didn't get much recongition.
It is very thought-provoking, as David has a lot to deal with. Losing his friends, and them become bullies to him. As being 15, there's a lot that I can relate to: The crush, which actually IS depicted as you remembered what it was like. The jerks, true too (well, except the fighting, my school is very strict so we never see any), as well as the eventual nerd friends (Mo and Larry [the "Three Stooges" allusion in the book is presently perfectly, especially the hilarious scene when David tries to explain it to his brother]).
Another great notch about this book is that even though it isn't in first person (none of Sachar's books are, anyways [though the "Holes" movie is told in first person]), he really puts you into the mind of David. For example, during slow scenes, when David is supposed to being thinking more, the detail of the scene increases.
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