It seems smarter and funnier, and altogether more perfect every time I reread it. – Jenne Abramowitz
Simply stated the best book ever. It stands the test of time, and I give it to kids every year. Turtle, while incredibly unlikeable, is loveable just the same, and the quirky characters have just the right amount of strange. Raskin also managed to do the “what-happened-in-the-future” part of it right (unlike some awful epilogues of late). I do wish that David Lynch would make this into a movie. - Stacy Dillon
Oh, Ellen, why did you die so young? – Susan Van Metre
I was once at a Books of Wonder Christmas party when Peter Glassman started popping some children’s literature trivia at me. I correctly answered his question about Evaline Ness, but then he asked a question that just baffled me. “What is the only Newbery winning jacket illustrated by someone who would later go on to win their own Newbery?” I was stumped. Couldn’t for the life of me figure it out. The answer? Ellen Raskin illustrated the original cover for Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time then later would go on to win a Newbery for The Westing Game. Raskin originally intended to be a freelance commercial artist anyway, and she did about a thousand book jackets in her day. Not too surprising that L’Engle’s would have crossed her plate. Of course, according to Anita Silvey, “she had always hoped to win a Caldecott Medal for illustration.” Instead she got a Newbery.
The plot description from the book reads, “Sixteen people were invited to the reading of the very strange will of the very rich Samuel W. Westing. They could become millionaires, depending on how they played the game. The not-quite-perfect heirs were paired, and each pair was given $10,000 and a set of clues (no two sets of clues were alike). All they had to do was find the answer, but the answer to what? The Westing game was tricky and dangerous, but the heirs played on, through blizzards and burlaries and bombs bursting in the air. And one of them won!” Oddly cheery recap, that.
American Writers for Children Since 1960: Fiction says that the book came about in this way: “It was begun in 1976, the Bicentennial year, which prompted the use of the words of ‘America the Beautiful’ as clues. The death of Howard Hughes was much in the news at the time, which inspired the strange will and multiple heirs. She [Raskin] intended the book to have a historical background and set it on the shores of Lake Michigan, where she grew up. Wisconsin had a history of labor disputes (perhaps she remembered the career of her Grandfather Raskin, a member of the Industrial Workers of the World who was murdered at age thirty-four), so she chose to write about a slain industrialist. Raskin said, though, that as she wrote, ‘My tribute to American labor history ended up a comedy in praise of capitalism.’ It was a true Bicentennial book.” Also, the working title was Eight Imperfect Pairs of Heirs. Proof positive that working titles sometimes bite.
If she was any character in the book, it’s easy to guess which one. “Raskin was certainly Turtle Wexler, and The Westing Game as a tribute to capitalism is not surprising because she was a capitalist herself. She maintained a portfolio of stocks and played the market successfully. She was very proud that she wasAdd a Comment