The Westing Game, Ellen Raskin

Dan Price suggested this title to me after reading earlierĀ First Impressions comments on children’s books and my penchant for games. An excellent suggestion it was, too, and one I shall pass on. This is a “young adult” book, which I gather means that it has no pretensions of New York Times Book Review status, because if we judge it on its merits, it is quite sophisticated and well-written. Ostensibly a mystery, it centers around the tenants of one high-rise apartment complex and the death of the town’s paper products entrepreneur, Samual W. Westing, who has selected those tenants as his heirs–with a catch. First, they must play the last Westing game.

Like The Egypt Game (commented on here recently), the book concerns the game of its title, but is actually about the players. While one can read The Westing Game for the puzzle, it is much more rewarding as a study of what happens to people joined together in a strange situation. Interesting for adults as well as children, I can’t see why you shouldn’t try it.

Dan went on to mention a number of additional books that he recalled from his childhood: “The Internet has provided much opportunity to research classic juvenile literature, and I have been delighted to find that I am not the only one who fondly remembers (and actively seeks) Bertrand Brinley’s tales of The Mad Scientists Club, Keith Robertson’s adventures of Henry Reed, the archly absurd stories regarding Homer Price of Centerburg Tales fame, Secret Agents Four by the redoubtable Donald J. Sobol, and a gem I came across in my grandmother’s basement two decades ago, The Case of The Waltzing Mouse (part of the Brains Benton series). The quality of literature written for adolescents seems to have degenerated markedly in the last two decades–read these books and see for yourself.”

[Finished 8 July 1994]

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