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The Gawgon and The Boy Hardcover – May 7, 2001

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 and up
  • Grade Level: 5 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 720L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton Juvenile; 1st edition (May 7, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0525466770
  • ISBN-13: 978-0525466772
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.8 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #978,454 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Eleven-year-old David nearly died of pneumonia. ("New Monia," as his Aunt Rosie called it with her heavy British accent, not unlike the "Spanish Influenzo.") But all that bed rest would have been worth it if it meant he could escape Rittenhouse Academy and continue on among the rogues' gallery of eccentric friends and relatives that passes through his family's Philadelphia home. David (also known as "Bax," "Skeezix," "Skinamalink," Snicklefritz," and "First Sergeant," depending on which grownup is doing the addressing) decides that he'd be more than happy to wile away his days with some fresh air and "mild exercise," as prescribed by Dr. McKelvie (who, incidentally, calls David "laddie-buck").

But mild exercise turns out to include more than lounging around reading books about pirates, sneaking into theaters to see "the new films that actually talk" (this being right before the Depression), and writing up clever cartoons about the "Sea-Fox," the devilishly devious scourge of the Spanish Main. No, David is to have a tutor. (A "tooter," says Aunt Rosie, to keep him from becoming an "ignoramiss.") And it could be a worse fate than David ever imagined, maybe even worse than Rittenhouse: his stern, elderly Aunt Annie volunteers for the job. "In a tone that made me think of the Almighty commanding Abraham to sacrifice young Isaac, she said: 'Give me the boy.'"

But this horrible old Gorgon (Aunt Rosie translation: "Gawgon") proves to be David's perfect foil, an ingenious mentor who so impresses David--whom she takes to simply calling "The Boy" after she learns about her nickname--that she begins to co-star in his time-hopping, globe-trotting adventure stories. The Gawgon and the Boy offers excellent period details, hysterical dialogue, and convincingly funny and authentic 11-year-old imaginings from Newbery Medal and National Book Award winner Lloyd Alexander. (Ages 10 and older) --Paul Hughes

From Publishers Weekly

Alexander (Gypsy Rizka; the Prydain Chronicles) here intersperses adventure-filled fantasies with a semi-autobiographical account of growing up in Philadelphia in the late 1920s. When a serious bout with pneumonia leaves 11-year-old David too weak to return to school, his older, unconventional "Aunt" Annie steps in as his tutor. David dubs her "The Gawgon" ("The Gorgon," as pronounced in another relative's idiosyncratic accent), but her exuberant approach to history, literature and life itself soon has David enthralled and provides him with ample material for writing and illustrating. Occasional lapses into coyness ("Barnick and Deveraux had been banished to summer camp in the Poconos. Their punishment: to play baseball, swim in lakes, ride horses, and toast marshmallows") are not enough to sink this gently buoyant portrait of the artist as a young man. Alexander's fans will likely find that The Gawgon calls to mind an older incarnation of his feisty heroine Vesper Holly, star of her own quintet of books. Though the duo's romps through history (including encounters with Napoleon and Leonardo Da Vinci) most closely resemble the work for which the author is best known, they pale in comparison to the forthright descriptions of David's eccentric extended clan, his grandmother's boarding house and details of everyday life in the first third of the 20th century. Ages 10-up.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

More About the Author

Few writers have inspired as much affection and interest among readers young and old as Lloyd Alexander. At one point, however, it seemed unlikely that he would ever be a writer at all. His parents could not afford to send him to college. And so when a Philadelphia bank had an opening for a messenger boy, he went to work there. Finally, having saved some money, he quit and went to a local college. Dissatisfied with not having learned enough to be a writer he left at the end of one term. Adventure, he decided was the best way. The United States had already entered World War II. Convinced that here was a chance for real deeds of derring-do, he joined the army -- and was promptly shipped to Texas where he became, in disheartening succession an artilleryman, a cymbal player in the band, an organist in the post chapel, and a first-aid man. At last, he was assigned to a military intelligence center in Maryland. There he trained as a member of a combat team to be parachuted into France to work with the Resistance. "This, to my intense relief, did not happen," says Alexander. Instead, Alexander and his group sailed to Wales to finish their training. This ancient, rough-hewn country, with its castles, mountains, and its own beautiful language made a tremendous impression on him. But not until years later did he realize he had been given a glimpse of another enchanted kingdom. Alexander was sent to Alsace-Lorraine, the Rhineland, and southern Germany. When the war ended, he was assigned to a counterintelligence unit in Paris. Later he was discharged to attend the University of Paris. While a student he met a beautiful Parisian girl, Janine, and they soon married. Life abroad was fascinating, but eventually Alexander longed for home. The young couple went back to Drexel Hill, near Philadelphia, where Alexander wrote novel after novel which publishers unhesitatingly turned down. To earn his living, he worked as a cartoonist, advertising writer, layout artist, and associate editor for a small magazine. It took seven years of constant rejection before his first novel was at last published. During the next ten years, he wrote for adults. And then he began writing for young people.Doing historical research for Time Cat he discovered material on Welsh mythology. The result was The Book of Three and the other chronicles of Prydain, the imaginary kingdom being something like the enchanted land of Wales. In The Remarkable Journey of Prince Jen Alexander explored yet another fantastic world. Evoking an atmosphere of ancient China, this unique multi-layered novel was critically acclaimed as one of his finest works. Trina Schart Hyman illustrated The Fortune-tellers as a Cameroonian folktale sparkling with vibrant images, keen insight and delicious wit. Most of the books have been written in the form of fantasy. But fantasy, Alexander believes, is merely one of many ways to express attitudes and feelings about real people, real human relationships and problems

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By E. A Solinas HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 15, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Lloyd Alexander's latest is a departure from his usual tales of ancient heroism or far-off lands, though it is no less enjoyable than the Prydain Chronicles or the Vesper Holly adventures.
Eleven-year-old David (also known as "Skeezix," "Skinamalink," Snicklefritz..." by his various weird relations) is recuperating from near-fatal pneumonia, in 1920s Philadelphia. He has an array of bizarro relatives who flit by him, but who cannot erase the apparent boredom of bedrest. He's willing to try mild exercise and stimulation, but...
... he has to have a tutor. Apparently reading, watching "talkies" and making cartoons is not sufficient for a young boy. Old Aunt Annie agrees to be David's tutor--the Gorgon (whom accented Aunt Rosie calls Gawgon... get it? Gawgon and the Boy?)
But Aunt Anne is not just another formidable old lady -- she is witty and intelligent (wow, sounds like Alexander's other female heroes!) and intrudes on his written escapades. The Gawgon and the Boy also has hints of autobiography, given the time period and the unexotic locale, not to mention the excellent sense of atmosphere that permeates the story.
Both David and the "Gawgon" are enjoyable, quirky characters who clearly have the full imagination of Mr. Alexander behind them. Aspiring writers will be fascinated by the early writings of David, and his thoughts on them. Though they may initially dislike Aunt Annie, she soon shows her more endearing sides. In addition to these two, there is also a supporting cast of slightly weird relatives,
The descriptions of Philadelphia in the 20s sparkle with life and vividity. Such details as the "new" films with actual sound give it an added feeling of "you are there." The words used to describe the characters and situations are excellent as always!
Lloyd Alexander's talent has not dulled, and this unique offering will satisfy any reader.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 5, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Lloyd Alexander is rightfully considered one of the finest children's writers in the world today, and his latest novel, The Gawgon and The Boy, is yet another strong addition to the canon. What sets Alexander apart from most other writers is his marvelous imagination, and in this book he pays tribute to the person who inspired that imagination, his Aunt Annie, herein referred to (affectionately) as "The Gawgon."
The novel centers on Alexander's (called David in the book) childhood days in Philadelphia in the 1930s, and features his own family in all their delightful eccentricity. While lovingly and sweetly portrayed, there is nothing saccharine in his portrayal of family life. Fans of Bradbury's Dandelion Wine, Durrell's My Family & Other Animals, and JD Fitzgerald's Great Brain series will all find something to smile about here.
As a bonus, readers are treated to samples of young David's own stories and get a ringside seat to the workings of his imagination. David is tutored by his Aunt Annie, who gave David books as gifts, and fostered his youthful aesthetic. This book is a paean to her memory.
The Gawgon and The Boy harkens back to Alexander's earliest books, such as My Love Affair with Music and Janine is French, now long out of print. He deals with some of the same themes he tackled in The Arkadians (where do stories come from?), and structurally it is reminiscent of his first full-fledged children's novel, Time Cat. The cat Gareth in Time Cat introduced the boy Jason to 9 different lives and times, which in a sense is what The Gawgon, David's muse, does here.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on April 5, 2002
Format: Hardcover
The Gawgon and The Boy was a good book with strong characters. The book was a 1 day read for me. Lots of kids will enjoy all of the silly nicknames the main character has given, and they will be sure to recomend it to all there friends!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By "aderyn_y_to" on March 12, 2002
Format: Hardcover
It takes a lot of courage for an author as well-established and well-loved in a genre as Lloyd Alexander is, to depart from that genre and present a book so unlike anything they've done before. It takes even more courage when it's a book about your own childhood. Lloyd Alexander did this, and the result is one of his best books.
I've never liked books in which the protagonist can magically jump from the present to a fantasy world. However, Lloyd Alexander makes it work effortlessly. The short stories which come from David's imagination add adventure to the plot without losing credibility.
The story, told from the point of view of 11 year old David (who is increadibly easy to identify with ), is childish without being immature. The world is a place where it's possible to drown in a backyard creek, and adults never quite make sense. But you are nevertheless at all times in the hands of a master storyteller.
Lloyd Alexander has influenced my life more than any other author I've read. His characters have peopled my own imagination, and even helped to shape who I am. This book about his own childhood is unlike anything he's written, so don't buy it hoping for his normal formula. Instead, put yourself in his hands and let the story lead you where it will. You wont be sorry.
Did I mention it's funny too?
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