Summary: 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. -- Philomel
Many of you know that I am kind of addicted to Twitter. Not only do I love tweeting with all my bookish friends, but I also like that I can tweet with authors and find out about their new books. SLOB by Ellen Potter is the latest example of a book that I discovered on Twitter when the author asked if anyone was interested in receiving a copy. I recognized Ms. Potter's name because my daughter has all of the OLIVIA KIDNEY books, so I jumped at the chance. I must admit that it was a pretty lucky move on my part because SLOB is a terrific middle grade book!
SLOB is a little different than the OLIVIA KIDNEY books because the main character and narrator is a 12 year-old boy. The book starts with Owen telling you that he's not the typical twelve-year-old boy because he is "57 percent fatter than the national average for a twelve-year-old boy." From the first paragraph, I just knew I was going to fall in love with Owen. He is a wonderful, kind, insecure kid who just happens to be a genius (1 point shy as he reminds the reader.) He is definitely a memorable character that many young kids will relate to, and I absolutely adored him and can't stop thinking about what a fantastic person he was.
It quickly becomes clear that Owen and his sister Jeremy (she has changed her name to a boy's name) have been through a lot; however, the reader is gradually given hints that something tragic happened in their past. I had some ideas, but I have to admit that I was shocked with the secret. I thought Ms. Potter did an amazing job of telling this story and keeping the reader's attention.
SLOB does deal with some very serious issues, and my heart definitely went out to Owen and Jeremy; however, I have to say that I found this book to be hilarious! There was so much humor woven into this story, especially Owen's insights into life, that I don't consider it a "sad" read. The ending is definitely upbeat and the reader is left with some terrific messages. I think kids will feel bad for Owen, but I think they will absolutely love the mystery, suspense and humor in this novel. I know I couldn't put it down!
There are a lot of themes in the book that are relevant for kids in today's society including childhood weight issues, violence, lack of self-esteem, bullying, etc. And I think it would make a fabulous discussion book either in school or even in a mother/daughter (parent/child) book club. I believe that reading SLOB and discussing the issues in it might just open the lines of communication for parents and children alike. And, I know that Owen's battle and his resilience will strike a chord with many young readers and give them the confidence they need to handle some of the challenges in their lives.
When I finished this novel, I tweeted Ms. Potter telling her how wonderful it is. She mentioned that she has a special connection to SLOB because it is loosely based on the relationship between her brother and her. That made the book even more special in my eyes, especially the scenes with Jeremy. I can't wait for my daughter to read it!!!
I highly recommend SLOB for middle grade readers, boys and girls alike. If my raving review doesn't convince you, maybe this will: SLOB has already been awarded The Junior Library Guild Spring 2009 Selection. SLOB will be available on May 14th so make sure you buy it for a child in your life.
A huge thanks to Ellen Potter for sending me an ARC of SLOB.