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The Schwa Was Here
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
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What's the story?
Calvin Schwa is one of those kids who doesn't get noticed, even when he's standing in the middle of the boy's bathroom singing "God Bless America" while wearing an orange sombrero and a cat costume. When Antsy Bonano does finally notice him, the decide to test the "Schwa Effect," then to make some money from it. They go one dare too far, however, and end up doing penance to a crabby, rich old man with a beautiful blind granddaughter.
Fun aside, though, not being noticed can be tough, especially for the Schwa, whose mother disappeared when he was five and whose father seems to be out in space most of the time. As Antsy learns more about the Schwa's miserable life, he's determined to be the one who notices. But the Schwa has something more dramatic in mind.
Is it any good?
Neal Shusterman has a unique imagination, which can make his books hard to describe. This one skirts the edge of fantasy, sometimes perhaps sticking a toe over the line. The form is a sort-of legend, reminiscent of Maniac Magee, but the voice is a not-totally-consistent but often wicked Brooklyn smart-alec. The combination is fluidly readable, unpredictable, and poignantly funny.
The chapter titles give a pretty good idea of the mood of the book: "Manny Bullpucky Gets his Sorry Butt Hurled off the Marine Park Bridge," "Which is Worse: Getting Mauled by a Pack of Dogs or Getting Your Brains Bashed out by a Steel Poker?" and so on. But there's also a lot to think about and talk about here, most notably the whole Schwa Effect -- it may be a comic exaggeration, but it's all too real for many tweens.
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