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The Westing Game (Puffin Modern Classics) Paperback – April 12, 2004
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"A supersharp mystery . . . Confoundingly clever, and very funny."
About the Author
Ellen Raskin was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and grew up during the Great Depression. She was the author of several novels, including the Newbery Medal-winning The Westing Game, the Newbery Honor-winning Figgs & Phantoms, The Tattooed Potato and other clues, and The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon (I Mean Noel). She also wrote and illustrated many picture books and was an accomplished graphic artist. She designed dust jackets for dozens of books, including the first edition of Madeleine L’Engle’s classic A Wrinkle in Time. Ms. Raskin died at the age of fifty-six on August 8, 1984, in New York City.
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Positives: It starts off much better than the actual book is. The first few chapters are intriguing. Also, it's a short enough book (about 180 pgs) and is only abut 6 hours with the Audible narration. There are also a few relatable characters (sort of).
Cons: There are so many characters, which makes it difficult to keep them all straight. There is not a lot of action in this book, and it all seems really unrelated until the very end. It's wrapped up in an "Oh...is that all?" kind of way, which I found boring. There are also a lot of racial stereotypes and some offensive language (ex. mongoloid), so you need to be prepared to have a conversation with your readers about those controversial elements.
I know this won a Newbury Award, and I'm not really sure how. As a teacher, I'm not sure how I would even teach this book since nothing really happens. There seem to be so many unrelated elements that happen for no good reason, and they are haphazardly slapped together at the end. I feel like there are so many better mystery books, especially now, for children and young adults.
Westing Game bridges the gap between infant picture books and word books for beginning readers before they tackle paragraph books transposed onto 5th grade and above developmental reading transitions. Instead of photos or illustrations, visual intricacy (and devious deceit) is hidden in bookbinding terms: font (bold vs plain), paragraph separators (dots white space) and very sneaky interruptions in the dialogue which provide visual clues on the page which can be only detected by being seen.
We read this book repeatedly as a Halloween tradition, and I find that appreciation for the ingenious allusions, clues and easily missed tantalizing information only increase on repeated reading during adulthood. Sydelle's painted crutches are intuitive clues from a very intelligent but lonely woman. The psychological portraits of the characters are revealed like peeling onions layer by layer, first superficial appearances, then deeper emotions, and finally hidden behaviors: bookie, bomber, thief, inventor, social climber, chess player, imposter.
I am a bookbinder calligrapher Literacy Through the Book Arts Paul Johnson, By J. A. Szirmai - The Archaeology of Medieval Bookbinding (New Edition) (1999-08-16) [Hardcover], journaler The Story of Writing Donald Jackson, A History of Illuminated Manuscripts Christopher de Hamel and journaler Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling, The. Westing Game is a contemporary non-illustrated book which utilizes the visual device of manipulating words on the page for sly commentary, a technique common in medieval hand bound books via illumination.
At first I limited myself to only the first chapter, stopped to draw a map of Westingtown, the floor plans of each of the 5 stories of Sunset Towers, cut out magazine photos to represent each of the characters which gathered all the information together before I embarked on the second chapter. I discovered at the end of the book that the entire mystery was contained in the first sentence of the first chapter, and was well elaborated through the first chapter. But I could not know that before reading the entire book. Adler suggests reading a book slowly, marking underlining, posing questions which puzzle the first time around. Then rereading a second time with a different color pen, new questions. Why does Sunset Towers face East?
5* not just for the brain tickling written mystery but the visual delight of a well planned and thought out book print design. The Avon Flare version has a trio of portraits to get the mind thinking in visual terms: Turtle in witch's gear, Chris with birdwatching binoculars, Chef Theodorakis.
My favorite line was an introspection by a 17 year old. Funny enough it still applies to most social interactions
"He couldn't think of a single thing to say that wasn't stupid or childish or childishly stupid."
This book was assigned to my son as reading material for 8th grade, logically I got a copy to discuss with him.
Four stars. This is good material to spark and inspire young minds. No brainer for a Newbery Medal.