Friday, July 15, 2011

A Bridge Between Generations

The Cardturner
Louis Sachar is quite simply a genius. I remember reading the Wayside School series when I was a child, and now I use them for my youngest students. Over two decades later, they are still funny! And who can forget Holes? Stanley Yelnats was a hero to so many of us. So it only seemed appropriate for The Cardturner to be just as amazing. If you agree, I promise you won't be sorry!

Alton has a rich uncle. Uncle Lester Trapp. Alton's family have been trying to ingratiate themselves to Trapp for years, but he ignores all their pleas for visits and dinners. Instead he spends all his time with his ex-wife's "crazy" niece Sophie and her daughter Toni (well, Alton's parents swear they are crazy, but he isn't completely convinced). When Trapp starts to get sicker from his diabetes, Alton's parents actually seem anxious for him to die in hopes of inheriting all his wealth. When Trapp needs a "cardturner" for his bridge games because his diabetes left him blind, they are quick to volunteer Alton.

Alton doesn't mind spending time with Trapp. In fact, he grows to really love the cantankerous old bird. He even starts to understand bridge, which seemed impossible at first. The more time he spends with Trapp, the more he learns his mother's information about Sophie, Toni and Annabelle (Sophie's mother) is just plain wrong (and quite frankly, mean spirited). His mother never knew the real story behind the King women, or perhaps she wouldn't have been so quick to dismiss them as gold diggers. In fact, Alton has really gotten to like Toni.

When Trapp passes away suddenly before the national bridge championship, Alton and Toni feel they have to go anyway- as Trapp and Annabelle. Since Trapp and Annabelle were partners and cared very deeply for one another, it only seems right that Alton and Toni would enter the contest as Trapp and Annabelle. They sneak off to Chicago and take on some of the best bridge players in the world. But it seems Trapp and Annabelle are with them more than just in memory- they seem to be playing through Alton and Toni, taking one last shot at the championship like they couldn't so many years ago.

This was such an interesting story. I will admit, my family are gin and rummy players, so bridge is totally lost on me, as I imagine it would be on most young kids and adults as well. But the cool thing Sachar does is explain the rules as though Alton were explaining them- as simple as such a complicated game could be. It made me actually want to start playing bridge! I think the challenge of figuring the game out with these simple and exciting lessons straight from Alton would interest those students who love a puzzle or are good at math. The game is all about strategy and thinking multiple steps ahead of the hand you are on, so it would definitely keep that kind of student a puzzle to crack!

This is a perfect book for any middle school through high school student. As I said, it would be great for that kid who likes to solve puzzles and figure things out. The characters are typical Sachar characters- unpredictable, deep, and lovable. The story about Alton really caring for Trapp and learning about his parents' faults is a difficult lesson for him to learn, but it is handled well. I can't explain how much I loved this book, and I am sure you will too!

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