Review ♦ SLOB

About the Book

Twelve-year-old Owen Birnbaum is the fattest kid in school

But he’s also a genius who invents cool contraptions – like a TV that can show you the past. There is something that happened two years ago that he needs to see if he ever hoped to unveil a dreadful mystery.

But genius or not, there is much that Owen can’t outthink. Like how his Oreos keep disappearing from his lunch. Or why his sister suddenly wants to be called by a boy’s name. Or why a diabolical, scar-faced thug at school seems to be on a mission to destroy him. He’s sure that if he can only get the TV to work, things will start to make sense. But it will take a revelation for Owen, no a cool contraption, to see that the answer’s not in the past, but the present. That no matter how large he is on the outside, he doesn’t have to feel small on the inside.

With her trademark humor and wry writing, Ellen Potter has created a larger-than-life character and story whose weight is immense – when measured in heart.

My Thoughts  
First off, I have to say how fully this book grabbed my attention. It’s narrated by the main character Owen Birnbaum, and his personality and quirkiness grabbed me right from the opening paragraph. Throughout the story the reader is witness to his honestly blunt thoughts, and even if he doesn’t always say aloud what he’s thinking, we do get to hear his silent quips. Which are sometimes hilarious, sometimes sad, but always seem to be true to Owen’s character. By just a few chapters in, I felt a connection to Owen, this doesn’t happen often for me, I think it had a lot to do with the author’s choice of perspective style. By presenting Owen’s story as though he were telling it to you personally, it was like you were part of the story yourself, a bystander or friend whom Owen was confiding in.

The story itself starts off like many others, Owen is going through a hard time, dealing with weight issues, bullies and other middle grade woes. The first really big issue involves the theft of three Oreo cookies from Owen’s lunch sack. Doesn’t sound like something worth freaking out over, but to put it into perspective a little, Owen’s mom is a health nut who uses all-natural ingredients and prepares food that is supposed to taste like the real thing, but ends up like tasteless cardboard. She tried getting him to eat the healthy-fake-Oreos but they were nothing like the real thing that he loved, and so those three Oreo cookies that Owen gets in his lunch every day are the only real junk-food that he eats. Another thing that isn’t stated in the book but seems to be implied is that for Owen eating is a comfort habit. So now it starts to become more obvious why a kid would get so upset about a couple of stolen cookies.

Owen Birnbaum on Oreo Cookies:

I've had three bona fide Oreos in my lunch ever since. It’s a ritual for me. I look forward to them. I really do. It’s like a spiritual thing. No matter how lousy my morning was, those three Oreos remind me that life also has it’s high points. It’s moments of bliss.

The book goes on from the stolen cookie incident and includes scenes of public humiliation, bullying among the boys, a suspected psychopath schoolmate and the search for a rare type of electrical equipment needed for Owen’s secret invention. So when the real issue is unveiled, I felt completely thrown for a loop. Halfway through, I was thinking what a great story this was, learning about a boy’s life and his problems and them WHAM the big reveal and I think to myself “Yes, yes, there were little signs peppered throughout and I completely missed them!”  As a reader, this is one of those things I love – the writer, Ellen Potter, totally surprised me! Nothing is better than a main plot aspect that only becomes obvious once you’ve discovered it. Bravo!

Slob is a book that I would highly recommend to readers of all ages, it’s well written with a great storyline, terrific dialogue and a wonderful cast of characters. And on the subject of characters, I would be more than overwhelmed to see Owen’s little sister Jeremy return with a book of her own. Jeremy is one sassy little chick and I just know there’s so much she would have to say.

Owen Birnbaum on his little sister Jeremy:

Jeremy’s mouth gawped open. For a moment I thought she was about to bellow. She’s a little bit like a superhero with no superhero talents. She despises bullies and loves underdogs, much like the classic superhero. But she’s thin as a coat hanger and on the shortish side, and all she can do is punch reasonably hard with her bony knuckles. No jet-propelled flying. No invisibility skills.

“I’ll pulverize him,” she (Jeremy) said in this quiet voice. It was impressive.


About The Author

Growing up, Ellen Potter knew a boy just like Owen – the butt of every joke, bullied by his peers, and harassed by his evil gym teacher. This boy fought back with his brains instead of his fists, and he grew up to be a great and important man who does great and important things.

Like her character Owen, the boy from her childhood had learned the secret of courage: if something scares the snot out of you, and you do it anyway, then you are braver than the bully who’s too dopey to be scared of anything.

In addition to Slob and Pish Posh, Ellen Potter is the author of the much-loved Olivia Kidney series. Olivia Kidney was a 2003 Top Ten Children’s Book selection by Book Sense, and of of Child Magazine’s Best Books of 2003. It’s sequel, Olivia Kidney Stops For No One, earned the author great praise and comparisons to Roald Dahl and Lemony Snicket.

Ms. Potter lives in upstate New York with her husband and her son.


Title: Slob
Author: Ellen Potter
Book Genre: Young Adult Fiction (9+)
Book Type: Trade Paperback 208 pages
Publisher: Philomel (Penguin Group)
Publication Date: May 2009
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*Quotes are from an Advanced Reading Copy and may be different from final version.

© 2008-2010 Joanne Mosher of The Book Zombie. All rights reserved.


Anonymous said...

Awesome review! Loved this book and so did Nona. Her review will be posted this week, but I can't remember when. Now she has me in search of more books by this!

Michelle said...

Ooh.. I loved your review, I will definately look out for this book!

bermudaonion said...

I loved this book and plan to post my review tomorrow. After reading your fabulous review, I think I need to re-work mine though!

Nyuel said...

What a great review. I loved the excerpts you included, especially about the oreo cookies. Thanks for introducing me to this book, and I'll be sure to pick it up and experience it for myself!

Anonymous said...

I almost picked this book up, and after reading your review I wish I had grabbed it. It sounds like a good one to just get lost in.

And I'll chime it with everyone and say I love your review :-) I like the layout, and I'll have to take some notes and steal.. er, take inspiration from your blog ;-)

Zibilee said...

Great review! I think this sounds like an excellent book for both myself and my teenage daughter. I am putting this one on my list. Thanks!

B.Kienapple said...

Looks good! Have you read Fruit by Brian Francis? Reminds me of it.

Anonymous said...

Wait...his sister's name is Jeremy? That's kinda cool.

Lightheaded said...

Just that quote alone re: Oreos is perfect! I bring Oreos with me to review school and every break I savor those three pieces :)

Andi said...

I hadn't heard of this one before, but it sounds fantastic! Thanks for the tip. :) I love those books that allow us to fall into the narrative and really feel a connection with the characters.

lilly said...

never heard of this book but since I have a 10-year-old I might convince her to want to read it and this way we could do it together.

Trish said...

I've been seeing this one around, but I didn't know who the target audience was (sounds like maybe YA?). Poor Owen--sounds like we probably all have a little Owen in us who can relate a bit to this book. Great review!