Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

The Cardturner

The Cardturner

Fall 2010 Fiction
Ages: 12 & Up
Author: Louis Sachar
ISBN: 9780385736626
Hardcover Price: $17.99

Alton has always been told by his parents that his rich Uncle Lester is his favorite uncle. He has always understood this to mean that his parents are angling for a hefty inheritance in Lester Trapp's will. So when Trapp, who has gone blind from diabetes, requests Alton to be his cardturner for his biweekly bridge games, Alton's parents are overjoyed, convinced that this is Alton's chance to make himself beloved and indispensable. Alton doesn't relish the thought of spending time with his irascible uncle in a room full of elderly people, watching a very complicated card game about which he knows nothing. But he is unwillingly impressed by his uncle's memory for cards and skill at bridge. Pretty soon, he and his little sister Leslie are looking up bridge rules and practicing themselves. The more he watches his uncle, the more Alton wonders why Trapp isn't a national champion. Not only that, he wonders why his parents believe his pretty cousin Toni Castaneda is crazy, and why nobody will tell him what happened to Toni's grandmother, who used to be Trapp's bridge partner.

I zipped through this book, frantic to find out what happened next-and then was sorry I did, since the book was over and I wished I had more to read. The wry narrative humor, suspenseful plotting, layering of past and present, and hint of the fantastic that made Sachar's Holes successful make this novel a similarly compelling and enjoyable read. Alton is an engaging narrator, and the supporting characters of Trapp, Leslie, Gloria, and Cliff are also well drawn and convincing; Sachar does an especially good job of portraying Alton's affectionate sibling relationship.

While the story and the narrative voice pull the reader through, the heart of this book really is the game of bridge. This isn't as boring as it sounds; in fact, it isn't boring at all. Sachar pokes fun at his own obsession with bridge, slyly invoking the whaling chapters in Moby Dick by designating the sections about bridge with a picture of a whale. However, this self-deprecating caution is unnecessary-the chapters about bridge are quite as entertaining as the storyline, and they are necessary for the reader to appreciate Trapp's genius and Alton's developing love interest (I should note, however, that I actually liked the whaling chapters in Moby Dick). Young adult readers and their parents alike will love this novel-and I wouldn't be surprised if some of them decided to take up bridge.

Naomi Lesley   ©2010 Parents' Choice
Naomi Lesley taught middle and high school English for six years. She is currently in a doctoral program at the George Washington University, focusing on American young adult literature.

Look for this product at:
Random House Children's Books/Delacorte Press

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