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Library Journal Review
The only thing Alton Richards knows about his great-uncle Lester is that he is very old, very rich, and very sick. Uncle Lester's diabetes has robbed him of his sight, and Alton has been offered a summer job by his enterprising parents as Uncle Lester's cardturner at bridge. In that capacity, Alton learns a little about the game, more about his family, and a lot about his uncle, one of the best bridge players in the country, if not the world. Joining Alton and Uncle Lester at the bridge table is Toni Castenada, a young lady Alton once found strange and now finds strangely attractive. Why It Is for Us: Before the story begins, Sachar warns the reader that to the uninitiated, bridge players may seem like they come from another planet. His enthusiasm for the game knows no restraint. Readers who, like myself, have never played a hand will still root for Alton and Toni as they give Uncle Lester and his one great love, Annabel Finnick, a last chance to win the National Pairs Championship.-Angelina Benedetti, "35 Going on 13," BookSmack! 7/15/2010 (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
"I realize that reading about a bridge game isn't exactly thrilling," 17-year-old narrator Alton tells readers early on. Luckily, this funny and thoughtful novel is as much about building bridges-between generations and maybe even between life and death-as it is about playing cards. Alton gets roped into serving as a card turner for his great-uncle, Lester Trapp, a bridge whiz who recently lost his eyesight (Alton's job is to read Trapp's cards for him). Though Alton barely knows Trapp, his opportunistic mother won't miss a chance for Alton to get in good with his "favorite uncle," who's wealthy and in poor health. To Alton's surprise, he becomes enamored of the game and begins to bond with his crusty uncle-who shares insight into synchronicity and the connection between reality and perception. With dry, understated humor, Alton makes the intricacies of bridge accessible, while his relationships with and observations about family members and friends (including an ex-girlfriend, a manipulative best friend, and especially Trapp's former card turner) form a portrait of a reflective teenager whose life is infinitely enriched by connections he never expected to make. Ages 12-up. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
School Library Journal Review
Gr 7-10-It's the summer after his junior year of high school, and Alton Richards is told by his parents that he must drive his blind, rich great-uncle Trapp to his bridge club four times a week and turn cards for him in this novel (Delacorte, 2010) by Louis Sachar. His mother hopes that by worming his way into his uncle's affections, the family might be written into his will. It's soon apparent that there are others with the same intentions. Despite Trapp's blindness and health issues, he is a master bridge player and Alton turns out to be his right hand man in more ways than one. As the card games progress Alton develops admiration and respect for his seemingly cranky old uncle as well as the game of bridge. Sachar reads each chapter of the first-person narrative in a deceptively matter-of-fact style that contains all the angst, apathy, and humor that defines Alton.-Ivy Miller, Wyoming Seminary Upper School, Kingston, PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
*Starred Review* With his latest novel, the Newbery-winning author of Holes (1998) fulfills a need the world probably didn't even know it had: the great teen bridge novel. Alton Richard's great-uncle Lester Trapp is rich and ailing, a combo that leads Alton's parents to hatch a plan for the teen to cozy up to the old man and carve out a chunk of inheritance. Though blind, Trapp is a brilliant, world-class bridge player and needs someone to read him his cards and make his plays. Enter Alton, who wouldn't begin to know how to decipher questions like One banana, pass, pass, two no-trump. Is that unusual? But he withstands the constant barbs from his irascible uncle and grows more intrigued by the game (in no small part due to the cute, kind-of-crazy girl who also plays). Sachar liberally doles out detailed commentary on the basics and then nuances of the game, and in a nod to the famously dull Moby-Dick chapter on the minutiae of whaling, a little whale image appears when the bridge talk is about to get deep so readers can skip right ahead to a pithy wrap-up. But don't be fooled: it is astonishing how Sachar can make blow-by-blow accounts of bridge not only interesting but exciting, treating each play like a clue to unravel the riddle of each hand. An obvious windfall for smart and puzzle-minded teens, this is a great story to boot, with genuine characters (save the scheming parents) and real relationships, balanced by casual, confident storytelling.--Chipman, Ian Copyright 2010 Booklist
Horn Book Review
When Alton's reputedly rich great-uncle Lester Trapp offers him a job as driver, Alton's parents insist he take it -- they really want to be named in Trapp's will. Trapp has become blind due to diabetes, and he needs Alton not only to drive him to his beloved bridge club but also to serve as his "cardturner," telling Trapp what cards he has so the old man can make the right plays. Or play the right tricks, as bridge lingo would have it -- and there is a lot of bridge and its rules, rituals, and strategies in this book. In the first-person narration, Alton does a good job of conveying the game and its appeal, marking passages of detailed blow-by-blows and diagrams with a picture of a whale (to recall the lengthy informational passages in Moby-Dick) and then, for impatient readers, offering a boxed prcis of what just happened ("Toni screwed up big time!"). Like bridge itself (although Sachar is careful not to lay the parallels on too thickly), the story is filled with secrets and bluffs, tricks and dummies. While resolved by a supernatural element that seems out of place, this novel, like Holes (rev. 9/98), has intriguingly complicated kinship lines and family history that toss the plot back and forth across generations. Alton is an engagingly self-deprecating storyteller ("I once had a teacher who told me I'd be twice as smart if I was half as smart as I thought I was. I'm still trying to figure that one out") whose growing affection for Trapp and the game give the story heart in the first instance and suspense in the second. From HORN BOOK, (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.