Title: Swindle
Author: Gordon Korman
Narrator: Jonathan Todd Ross
ISBN: 9781436106542
Pages: 252 pages
Discs: 4 CDs, 4.5 hours
Publisher/Date: Scholastic Press, c2008.

“You have been chosen for your special skills to do something that urgently needs to be done. To learn more, come to the Ballroom at 3:30. Don’t miss this. It will be worth your while – $$$” (117)

Sixth-grader Griffin Bing finds an old baseball card in an abandoned home slated for demolition, and sells it to S. Wendell Palamino for $120. Griffin later finds out that the card was worth more, a lot more. Like, possibly a million dollars more. And S. Wendell Palamino is planning on auctioning it off to the highest bidder. Not if Griffin has anything to say about it! Griffin is intent on getting the card back in order to prevent his cash-strapped parents from selling their house. But does the man with a plan have a back-up plan when things go horribly wrong?

Gordon Korman writes a fast-paced heist that asks a major question; is Griffin right? Great for book discussion, Griffin is convinced that he is justified in his attempts to steal the card from S. Wendell for his own personal use because he was lied to about the card’s value. But legally, it is S. Wendell’s now, and Griffin knows it. I’m sure a healthy and probably spirited debate could arise from participants, prompting “What would you do?” Griffin has his reasons for not trusting adults, which make his motivation more palatable to sympathetic readers.

I listened to this audiobook in less than a week, and the pitch perfect pacing wraps you into the story. You get involved, you get outraged, and you get anxious when the heist goes horribly wrong. Listeners know that things are just going too well, and you come to expect that something surprising is going to crop up. Even Griffin himself says at one point “Something unexpected happens in every plan. Now we’ve got that out of the way, and we can work around it.” (151)However the sheer quantity of things that go wrong is astonishing. And while the ending seems to wrap up just a little too neatly for my tastes, it’s a satisfying conclusion. The one thing I would have liked to see is an author’s note, detailing whether or not the card ever existed, and maybe some facts about sports memorabilia.

I’ve included the covers for both the hardcover and paperback editions. I was pleasantly surprised to see Luther (the guard dog) take more of a spotlight in the paperback version.

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