Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Cardturner by Louis Sachar

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Genre: Contemporary

Release Date: 5/11/2010

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About the Book: Lester Trapp is Alton's great-uncle. All his life Alton has been told that Trapp is Alton's favorite uncle-Trapp is wealthy and his parents hope that they will make out nicely in Trapp's will. But Trapp is a bitter grumpy old man and Alton's only met him a few times. When the opportunity comes for Alton to assist his blind uncle in playing bridge, by acting as his eyes, Alton's parents jump at the chance for Alton to "bond" with his favorite uncle and up their chances of being included in Trapp's will. But Alton gets more than he bargained for when he discovers he might actually understand and enjoy bridge, and that Trapp's great-niece Toni (from Trapp's other side of the family) is also trying to win over Trapp for a coveted spot in his will.

GreenBeanTeenQueen Says: This is probably going to be the worst review and make no sense, because I honestly can't put into words why and how much I loved this book. I'd seen it around and read a review that piqued my interest. But bridge, in a book for teenagers? How interesting could that be?

Turns out it makes for a great story and one that is so unique and different from anything else I've read. Alton is a very likeable character and I love his narration and observations on life. Alton is a nice guy, he still talks to his best friend even though his girlfriend dumped him and started dating said best friend. He doesn't complain too much about having to play bridge. He's not a mysterious bad boy type, but a nice normal teen. He's the type of guy I would have had a crush on in high school.

Toni provides some of the spunk in the book. She's Trapp's great-niece so while Alton knows of Toni, they are on opposite sides of Trapp's family and Trapp is the one that connects them. Toni is hilarious and while she starts out as being somewhat odd, I really liked her and thought she was a great counterpart to Alton's character.

Even though The Cardturner is about Alton and Toni, it's mostly about Trapp and Annabel, Trapp's former bridge partner and Toni's grandmother. Their story is heartbreaking and how it connects and intertwines with Alton and Toni is pitch-perfect storytelling. They connect slowly and the way the two stories unfold keep the reader interested and engaged and just made the book for me.

The Cardturner, even with all it's great characters and storytelling, is ultimately a book about bridge. The author likens this to telling a story about baseball to aliens-it's not going to make a lot of sense. The way Mr. Sachar makes it work is that he uses a whale (inspired by Alton's annoyance over the fact that Moby Dick has long boring passages that aren't about whale hunting). In the book, these passages are marked by a whale, and that's when you know long technical information about bridge is coming up. Readers can skim or skip these parts and just read the basic overview at the end of each bridge passage or they can read them and try to learn more about the game. I listened to this one on audio, so these passages are marked by the sound of a foghorn. I tried to pay attention, but I still don't know that much about bridge!

The Cardturner has such a strange premise that it's going to be a hard sell to readers, but if you can get them to pick it up, it's worth it. I tried to booktalk it the other day and I couldn't exactly explain why I loved it so much so I just had to offer up the good ol "just trust me on this one." There's just a bit of magic to this book and the way everything comes together is why I finished the book smiling and adding it to my Printz picks for 2011. Just trust me on this one.

Book Pairings: This could make an interesting reading circle with books about teens playing games although I can only think of poker books-All In by Pete Hautman and Big Slick by Eric Luper

Full Disclosure: Reviewed from audiobook checked out from my wonderful local library

8 comments:

  1. Ok, your post has made me want to read this book. Honestly, it didn't sound all that interesting to me but I'm glad to hear it defied your expectations. Can't wait to read it.

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  2. I also loved this book and so did a colleague of mine but am also at a loss on finding the hook for a booktalk but despite that it's on my list of books to take to the middle schools for the fall, so I will find a way to sell it because I think they will love it!

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  3. I listened to it as well and loved it. I really wasn't sure going into it, but as I wrote in my blog, no one but Louis Sachar could pull the bridge angle off. That's what I'm going to use when I booktalk it. He has enough fans at my school, that I think they'll give it a try.

    Nice review, btw.

    brenda

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  4. I'd love to hear how your teens like it. I thought it had very narrow "kid appeal." My 15 year old couldn't believe that any teenagers would be interested in a book about bridge, and I tried to get my 14-year old son to listen to the audiobook (he's really into chess so I thought he might like it) but I don't think he finished it. Maybe you can write a follow-up post later in the year about your teens reactions to it. I think Sachar was trying to recruit a new generation of bridge players in this one....

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  5. Sarah-I hope you read it! I can't wait to hear your thoughts!

    Leigh-I don't really know how to hook readers on this one, but I think there are lots of readers who enjoy it.

    Proseandkahn-Yeah, I was thinking of using the author route too-giving it to readers who liked Holes. Even though it's YA and Alton is older, I thought all ages could read it.

    Fourth Muskateer-I'll try to get my teens to review it for me and I'll let you know what they say!

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  6. Every blogger seems to love this book, but when it was given to one of my teens..... At my library I run a blog where the teens read and review books. My coworker gave one of the kids this book to review and he just flat out hated it.

    Unfortunately I'm so backlogged in reviews I haven't put it up yet, so I can't send a link yet.

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  7. I just finished this book and loved it. Towards the end, the bridge info got a little bogged down but I still thought it was fabulous. I especially loved Trapp's philosophy about religion and ideas.

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  8. I loved this book as well and have been hesitant to booktalk it because it is such a hard sell. I am going to mention the love story between Trapp and Toni's grandmother and perhaps the paranormal aspect of hearing voices from the dead. I don't want to give away too much. True that Sachar weaves the past and present plot lines beautifully just as he did with Holes. What a master.

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