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The Schwa Was Here Hardcover – October 21, 2004

60 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Starred Review. Grade 7-10–Eighth-grader "Antsy" Bonano recounts how his accidental relationship with three quirky characters winds up being mutually beneficial. The catalyst in this social collision is Calvin Schwa, a classmate who has an almost supernatural knack for going completely unnoticed. When Antsy decides to become an "agent" for the "nearly invisible" Schwa by entertaining wagers on what he can get away with by being able to fly almost entirely beneath the social radar, the boys enjoy temporary success until they accept a dare requiring "The Schwa" to enter the home of a legendary local eccentric and retrieve a dog bowl belonging to any one of his 14 Afghans. Crawley, a powerful restaurateur who also happens to be severely agoraphobic, nabs the unlikely young intruders, and the crusty shut-in orders them to return daily to walk his dogs in exchange for their impunity. Once Antsy has gained Crawley's trust, he is asked to perform another task: to act as a companion for the man's blind granddaughter, Lexie. Antsy is then flanked by two peers–one who cannot see and one who cannot be seen–and, together, they overcome their collective liabilities through friendship, improving their own lives and the lives of those around them. Antsy tells his story in a bubbly Beastie Boys-meet-Bugs Bunny Brooklynese that keeps the pages flipping, and Shusterman's characters–reminiscent of those crafted by E. L. Konigsburg and Jerry Spinelli–are infused with the kind of controlled, precocious improbability that magically vivifies the finest children's classics.–Jeffrey Hastings, Highlander Way Middle School, Howell, MI
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Gr. 6-9. When Anthony "Antsy" Bonano and his friends meet Calvin Schwa, they are impressed and puzzled by his ability to appear and disappear before their very eyes. Antsy concocts a moneymaking scheme based on the Schwa's invisibility that seems promising until he and his friends overreach and are caught by the town's legendary mean millionaire, Mr. Crawley. Their resulting community service project--walking the 7 virtues and 7 vices (Crawley's 14 afghan hounds) and going out with Crawley's granddaughter Lexie--cements and ultimately challenges friendships. The humor is just right for boys, but the complexity of plot, the depth and richness of the characters, and the underlying seriousness of the issues belies the easy-to-read comedy. Schwa is an average kid who hangs on the periphery of the crowd and longs to be noticed and included, not simply ignored. His character is extreme, but far too many adolescents--and the adults who work with them--will sadly and guiltily recognize him. Frances Bradburn
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 and up
  • Grade Level: 6 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 790L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton Juvenile (October 25, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0525471820
  • ISBN-13: 978-0525471820
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,778,197 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Neal Shusterman is the author of many novels for young adults, including Unwind, which was an ALA Best Book for Young Adults and a Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Readers, Everlost, and Downsiders, which was nominated for twelve state reading awards. He also writes screenplays for motion pictures and television shows such as Animorphs and Goosebumps. The father of four children, Neal lives in southern California.

Amazon Author Rankbeta 

(What's this?)
#56 in Books > Teens
#56 in Books > Teens

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By LonestarReader on July 27, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Calvin Schwa seems to be invisible. Now you see him, now you don't. Antsy Bonano and his group decide to study this "Schwa effect" and use it for financial gain by taking wagers on Calvin's ability to enter improbable places unseen. The scheme is profitable until they accept a bet to steal a dog dish from the home of Mr. Crawley, the neighborhood eccentric. The Schwa is discovered by Crawley who can see him very clearly. As punishment, Calvin and Antsy become dog-walkers for the old man's 14 dogs. Later Crawley asks Antsy to befriend his visiting granddaughter, Lexie, who is blind. Schwa, Antsy and Lexie begin a search into Calvin's past and try to find out what happened to his mother. Is Calvin's "invisibility" tied to his past?

This detailed story is a page turner. Schusterman writes with compassion and humor.

As someone who works in a school setting, I found the story very moving because these "invisible" kids are in our classes. They are quiet, engaged and self sufficient so we sometimes overlook them. So much of a teacher's attention is claimed by high-needs students but the quiet ones also need all the recognition and acknowledgement that their teachers and friends can give them. The Schwa reminds me to make an even greater effort to keep these kids on the radar!

This is a great read that will be appreciated by kids in grades 4 and up.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Laura Lynn Walsh on June 19, 2006
Format: Paperback
The basic story of Anthony "Antsy" Bonano and his friends is fairly straight forward - Anthony and his friends suddenly become aware of this kid who is pretty much an inconspicuous person in the world. I won't summarize the plot, as it is done pretty well in the reviews. What surprised me, though, was the depth of the book. It could have been just a recounting of the basic events as detailed in the summary, but instead, you get tantalizing images of some really interesting characters: Anthony, and Calvin "The Schwa", of course, but also Mr. Crawley, Lexis, Anthony's family, and even Anthony's friends. This is a deeper and more complex world than the simple facade would have you believe. At the same time, it is not belabored. This is not a didactic book - it isn't trying to teach you something, but it is showing you a world that is complex and multi-faceted.

You can read the story as a straightforward accounting of events - and the plot is strong enough to make it a good read in that regard. Or you can see more - character study, exploration of values, decisions about what is important in life.

Better than I expected somehow.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Cleveland Rocks on December 29, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Schwa: The faint vowel sound in many unstressed syllables in the English language.

Neil Shusterman says he got the idea for "The Schwa Was Here" when he did a Q&A session at a library and kept overlooking a boy who had his hand raised. The boy evolved into the title character, the Schwa.

This book is as biting as its chapter titles ("Maybe They Had It Right In France Because Getting My Head Lopped Off By A Guillotine Would Have Been Easier"). Its main character, Anthony "Antsy" Bonano, is an Italian living in Brooklyn ("Jews and Italians seem to get along just fine. I think it has something to do with the way both cultures have a high regard for food and guilt"), a city known for simultaneously accepting, ignoring, and trampling over all its residents. The Schwa is especially a victim of being overlooked: He uncannily blends into his surroundings and can't be seen even when he is right in front of someone's face.

Neil Shusterman's book is fantastically entertaining. He has taken an everyday problem (who hasn't felt neglected and ignored?), raised it to an almost paranormal status, but kept it at such a level where the Schwa almost a realistic character(the Schwa isn't actually invisible, but is mysterious enough to have a disturbing presence).

The plot could have turned into a sniveling melodrama of deathbed confessions, persistant love triangles and tearful reunions, but Neil Shusterman cleverly avoided literary pitfalls. Instead, "The Schwa Was Here" is an offbeat novel, an urban myth of quirky, fascinating characters.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on February 27, 2007
Format: Paperback
Can you imagine being invisible to the world in a way that no one-not even your parents-acknowledge your existance? This is a realistic fiction about a boy who, with his friends tries to deal with "The Schwa Effect". And, in his small town gets himself into a little trouble, only to meet the boy who will help him find out about the strange dissappearance of his mother.

Knowing nothing about the book, I was a little skeptical of whether I would like it or not. It ended up to have a great storyline, one that I would definitely reccommend to all ages. Its a little bit of mystery, during the time "The Schwa" is trying to find his missing mother, and then they are using "The Schwa's" power to go unnoticed for things at school, like sneaking homework in late; little things like that. The beginning was a little bit slow, but towards the middle when the book starting picking up, I didn't want to put it down. It ends up having many things at once going on, and I was surprised by the whole idea of the book, considering the information I already had on it was VERY little. I strongly think that alot of different age groups would really enjoy reading this book, it could be perceived differently by different people. If perceived one way, it could be complicated with alot going on, if perceived from another way, it could be simple and light. No matter what point of view you are looking in, from an adult to a child, this book is very clear and a good read. I really liked this book, and I think that people should try it even though at first glance it looks way simple.
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