A Kid’s Review: Slob by Ellen Potter

31ddxnovrxl_sl500_aa240_Slob by Ellen Potter

Product Description from Amazon.com:

Twelve-year-old Owen Birnbaum is the fattest kid in school. But he’s also a genius who invents cool contraptions— like a TV that shows the past. Something happened two years ago that he needs to see. But genius or not, there is much Owen can’t outthink. Like his gym coach, who’s on a mission to humiliate him. Or the way his Oreos keep disappearing from his lunch. He’s sure that if he can only get the TV to work, things will start to make sense. But it will take a revelation for Owen, not science, to see the answer’s not in the past, but the present. That no matter how large he is on the outside, he doesn’t have to feel small on the inside.With her trademark humor, Ellen Potter has created a larger-than-life character and story whose weight is immense when measured in heart.

I received this ARC from Penguin and before I could even look it over, my 11 year old daughter snapped it up.  Maybe it was the Oreo cookie on the cover, or maybe it was the title, but she devoured the book in less than 2 days.   It’s a YA novel meant for kids 9-12 years old.  Rather than review it, my daughter wanted me to ask her questions about it, so here we go!

What is Slob about?  Who is the main character?

Slob is about a fat genius named Owen who tries to figure out a mystery about his parents.  Owen is 12 years old and goes to middle school. 

What challenges does Owen face?  

Owen is overweight, which presents a lot of problems for him, especially in gym class, where his coach is out to get him and embarrass him.  Someone suggests he get a ‘fat exemption’ from the doctor but he decides to tough it out.  Owen wants to solve the mystery about his parents so he builds Nemesis, a radio/television that can see the past and expand on what was caught on the security footage of a camera across the street from their deli.  It’s complicated.

How would you describe the book?  What was your favorite part?

I would describe it as suspenseful.  It has both serious and funny parts.  It’s mostly a mystery. The cover is really cool.  On the cookie, where it would say “Oreo”, it says “A Novel”.  The part I liked best were the parts at school, because he helps his arch-enemy recover from a seizure, and then they become friends.  

Were the characters believable?

I thought they were.  I liked Owen but the character I found most interesting was Mason Ragg.  He has one brown eye and one milky-blue eye and half his face is always sneering due to a medical condition.  It was rumored that Mason carried a switchblade in his sock, but it turned out it was just a key carrier.  There was another rumor that he was kicked out of his old school for being a handful.  It shows that people often make assumptions based on incorrect information. Mason knew about his reputation but didn’t let it bother him.

Did you like the ending?  Is there anything you’d change?

I did.  Owen learned a lot about himself by the end of the book.  He never did solve the mystery about his parents, but maybe some things are better left unsolved.

Who would you recommend this book to?  

I’d recommend this book to middle school kids, kids who’ve been bullied, kids who are friends with a bully, kids who are different, and kids who love to read.  It’s an easy read, and not too long (208 pages).  I’d give it 4 out of 5 stars.  

 

Slob by Ellen Potter will be released on May 14th, 2009.  

Review: Last Night at the Lobster by Stewart O’Nan

Stewart O’Nan writes with such clarity in Last Night at the Lobster that you can almost smell the seafood gumbo and the Cheddar Bay biscuits.  At 146 pages, this is a spare, minimalist day-in-the-life novella about the lives of the employees at a shabby, downsized Red Lobster restaurant.

The entire story takes place on the last day of business for the New Britain, Connecticut branch of the Darden restaurant chain.  Manny De Leon is the dedicated general manager at The Lobster; he is the picture of corporate loyalty.  The company has decided to close the branch, although he can’t figure out why because his numbers haven’t been that bad.  He takes great pride in “his” store, following company policy to the letter.  

As Manny attempts to stick to the routine and make the best of the last day, the elements are against him.  A blizzard is bearing down, the snow is piling up.  Disgruntled employees come in late or not at all.  Guests are few and far between, although there is some craziness at lunch when a party of 14 comes in without a reservation.  They are understaffed and understocked, and Manny, leading by example as always, must pitch in on the floor and in the kitchen. 

There isn’t a lot of dramatic action, but there is so much emotion.  Manny’s entire adult life has been wrapped up in this job, a job he takes great pride in and can practically do with his eyes shut.  The other employees don’t have the same feelings toward the Lobster as he has; they seem to resent the job, one another, and probably Manny as well. 

Manny spends time snowblowing the sidewalk during the blizzard and looks almost lovingly at the glowing windows of the store through the storm.  For Manny, The Lobster is the haven in the chaos of his life. While ruminating on what to get his pregnant girlfriend Deena for Christmas, he also reminisces about his failed relationship with Jacquie, one of the waitresses.  Manny longs for Jacquie, but she has moved on, and it is much the same with The Lobster.  He is a company man, but the company is indifferent toward him.    

If you’ve ever worked in a chain restaurant during the holidays, or been a victim of corporate downsizing, you will recognize and relate to the staff at The Lobster.  Their minor human triumphs and tragedies are the stuff of every day life in middle America.  This is a powerful little story that will stay with you and one that I would highly recommend.  You will not be able to eat in a Red Lobster or Olive Garden ever again without thinking of Manny and his crew. 

Stewart O’Nan’s latest book, Songs for the Missing, will be out in October 2008, but I’ll be getting an Advanced Readers Copy through Barnes and Noble’s First Look program, so I’ll be writing about it here this summer.