Monday, February 6, 2012
I had been meaning to read this book for years, but despite the fact that I have so often recommended it to young readers at my library looking for a good mystery, I just never got around to it. Then my eleven-year-old daughter started reading in her reading group at school, and she was enjoying it so much that she asked me to read it along with her. So I picked up a copy from my library, and she had a copy from her school library, and we had a fantastic time reading it in tandem and talking about the clues and what they might mean.
The Westing Game won the Newbery Medal in 1978, and I have to say, it was not at all what I expected from a mystery targeted at children. For one thing, the book is told from multiple points of view, and many of these characters are adults, with very adult cares and concerns. There are a few younger characters, and we quickly come to identify very closely with one child in particular, a feisty young girl named Turtle. But the book read very much like a traditional mystery novel for adults, and I think it would be a fantastic choice for a parent/child book club - or a group read in school.
The book is a puzzle mystery, and the premise is that Sam Westing dies, leaving the potential to inherit his fortune to sixteen people who all live in the same apartment building. Each person has some kind of connection with the rich old man, and whichever of them discovers who among them is the murderer stands to inherit the fortune. The will pairs up the various heirs into teams, giving each team certain clues, and the contest begins. The reader sees the clues as the characters discover them, and has the opportunity to put together the puzzle as the characters try to sort things out. Complicating matters are other events that occur during the novel, bombings and burglaries and other mysterious goings on. While the book focuses heavily on the mystery puzzle, bits and pieces about each of the characters are revealed, and as we learn more about their backgrounds and concerns, the mystery becomes much more than a simple game. The Westing Game is an excellent mystery story, full of fun twists and turns and surprises and I highly recommend it.
Reading this book was part of my resolution to read all the books my daughters recommend to me, and so I've created a new label called "kid recommended" where all future kid-recommended reads will be filed.
The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin (Dutton, 1978)