Both funny and poignant, I never knew I could enjoy a middle-grade novel as much as I did SLOB by Ellen Potter.
Owen Birnbaum is fat. But he wasn't always that way. Something bad happened and now he's the fattest kid at school, spending his days being teased endlessly by his classmates, afraid that the new school psycho who carries a switchblade in his sock is out to get him, tortured by his cruel gym teacher, and dealing with his sister who has decided she wants to dress and look like a boy and be called Jeremy.
Life isn't all bad though. Owen is a genius and he can invent cool stuff, like a TV that shows the past--a past that is scary, but one that can answer the questions burning inside his head...if only he can get it to work.
When the Oreos from Owen's lunch keep disappearing, he's sure the school psycho is the culprit. Owen puts together a plan--along with a neat new thief catching device--to help capture the Oreo snatcher. What he doesn't consider, however, is that science might not hold all the answers.
My unprofessional review is: I loved, loved, loved it!!!!
My professional self says that every middle-grade reader will find something to enjoy in SLOB. More than a story about an overweight kid who is teased profusely, SLOB is the story of one boy's quest to uncover the truth about the tragic event that altered his life forever.
Speaking directly to the reader, Owen shares his struggles at school--which stink, but he's not overly upset about because he's smarter than all those guys anyway, his sister's involvement in GWAB (Girls Who Are Boys), the torture he endures at the hands of his gym teacher Mr. Wooly, and how things change for him once the psycho comes to school--not only is Mason Ragg a psycho, he's a smart psycho.
Opening with the line, "My name is Owen Birnbaum, and I'm probably fatter than you are.", Owen does not suffer from low self-esteem, as one might imagine. His being fatter than you is "pure statistics". Immediately, the reader is drawn in by Owen, and Owen is so entertaining and engaging that the reader will never want to stop learning more about him until the last page of the book. But then again, if the reader is anything like me, she's hoping for a sequel.
The contraptions Owen invents are amazing, and Owen describes them to you in detail and shares how they work. I can see a lot of middle-grade boys trying to recreate or improve upon Owen's inventions after reading SLOB.
Potter has done such an excellent job of making Owen real for her audience that you'll soon forget that an adult woman wrote this book. And if parents are cool enough to pick up a copy of SLOB or to sneak their child's copy when he/she is off at school, they will be treated to references to The Brady Bunch, Happy Days, Mork and Mindy, Charlie's Angels and other hits shows from their youth. Of course, in Owen's world they are Retro TV, but we adults like to call them classics. I have to admit Owen's mother's name--which is Zelda--reminds me of The Legend of Zelda game my son played on his original Nintendo video game system. Gosh, I'm as old as dirt!
I highly recommend SLOB by Ellen Potter. Funny and offbeat, yet equally poignant, SLOB is destined to add more awards to this talented author's portfolio.
Author: Ellen Potter
Publisher: Philomel Books
SRP: $16.99 (U.S.)