January 23, 2012

The Gollywhopper Games by Jody Feldman

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 1:44 am by suebe2

The Gollywhopper Games
by Jody Feldman
Greenwillow

First of all, a disclosure.  No, the book wasn’t a gift.  I checked it out from the library.  Why?  Because Jody is one of the writers that I know and run into.  That’s why I picked the book up, but it isn’t why I loved it.

Gil Goodson is a fantastic underdog.  He’s smart and a good athlete.  He’s kind and conscientious.  Why then is he an underdog?  Because his father was accused of embezzling money from his employer, Golly Toy and Game Company.  Accused, not convicted.  A jury of his peers found him  innocent.

But what about Gil’s peers?  They aren’t as certain and the outspoken ones have made his life really difficult.  Because of their harassment, he’s quit playing sports.  He doesn’t hang out with the other kids any more.  He pretty much just goes to school, mows lawns and goes home.

What a life.

Not.

Gil just wishes that they could afford to move closer to his aunt.  Then he could start over, with new kids who hadn’t seen the story on television.  He wouldn’t constantly be reminded of that whole horrible time.

And Gil has the chance to win the money.  All he has to do is win the GollyWhopper Games a series of challenges that include both logic puzzles but also physical feats.

In the end, Gil is a real winner, but not because he wins the Games.  But because he learns to recognize who his friends are and what makes someone a good person.

The whole time I was reading this, I kept thinking back to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  Don’t bother.  The sense of fun is there but Gil is so much cooler than Charlie. Where Charlie wins by not being the worst kid there, Gil has to do so much more including being a true leader and using both athletic ability and his smarts.  Readers will also enjoy getting to solve the puzzles right along with Gil — something they didn’t get to do in Dahl’s book.

An excellent middle grade read that would be suitable for grade schoolers as well.  The book is high energy and clever and sure to win a place in classrooms and school libraries.  Use it to launch a section on puzzle solving, team building or ethics.

–SueBE

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