SLOB by Ellen Potter

slobWho stole Owen’s Oreos?  Owen is really smart and really fat, 57% fat; and the three Oreos his mom puts in his lunch sack are the one good thing about his day.   The day the Oreos are stolen gets worse when Mr. Wooley, Owen’s gym teacher, begins a gymnastics unit.  Mr. Wooley hates un-athletic kids and delights in their humiliation.  When Owen questions the Mr. Wooley’s somersault directions (“…it’s simple physics”), Mr. Wooley’s retribution is swift and humiliating.

Since Owen’s mom works full-time, Owen spends after school inventing things including something called Nemesis**, which will capture radio waves from the past. He needs spare parts so he and his sister Jeremy scavenge demolition sites for materials.  Unlike Owen, Jeremy (whose real name is Caitlin) belongs to GWAB (Girls Who Are Boys) and is bold and brave.  Their Tibetan neighbor Nima,  provides both delicious momos and a refuge from life for Owen.  Nima gives Owen advice about karma and other Buddhist teachings: when you stay calm around your enemy, you become stronger; when you do a good thing, good things come back to you.

Solving the problem of the missing Oreos, capturing radio waves, and getting through gym class is pretty hard work for Owen; he has some good guidance from friends and family, but ultimately it’s up to Owen.  Owen’s bravery comes in small doses and he ends up finding friends in the most unlikely places. 

As a kid I was a klutz.  I wasn’t good at sports and I didn’t try hard. When we had gymnastics in school, I would always find an excuse to get out of it.  I was okay on the balance beam (strictly beginner) but I could not do tumbling.  It’s clear to me now that I wasn’t fooling anyone.  I know what it’s like to gain a considerable amount of weight in a short period of time.  Owen gained it because of a very traumatic experience – which  I won’t give away.  I gained it when I got married.  Being married to Dave isn’t traumatic, but it was life changing and stressful.  Both Owen and I are emotional eaters.  I was cheering for Owen in his determination to do certain things. He stood his ground despite a lot of bullying by his peers.

 There is another mystery involved in this story that I barely mentioned and the manner in which is was unraveled was first-rate.  There is a lot going on in Owen’s life I laughed and cried as I related to Owen.  His determination to get things done was heroic.  He could have chosen the easy way, but instead faced his fears come what may.  The reactions of Owen’s classmates to his obesity were realistic.  Appearances don’t make the person. I thought this was a fabulous novel.

**Owen is so smart that I don’t fully understand what Nemesis is all about.

 SLOB by Ellen Potter.  199 pages for grades 5 – 8.  sh

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About SH

I'm a children's librarian in the western suburbs of Chicago. I've been involved with children's literature since working in a children's bookstore in 1990.
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  1. Pingback: Semicolon » Blog Archive » Saturday Review of Books: June 20, 2009

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