sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

January 15, 2011

into the stacks: the westing game
posted by soe 3:24 pm

weekly geeksThis week’s Weekly Geeks, coming on the heels of major award announcements in children’s literature, encourages participants to choose one of four options relating to award-winning kiddie lit. Having just read the 1979 Newbery Medal winner last night, I thought the timing was perfect to avail myself of the third choice:

Review a new-to-you award-winning book this week


The Westing Game by Ellen Rankin

From the jacket: “This highly inventive mystery involves sixteen people (including a dressmaker, a secretary, an inventor, a doctor, a judge, a bookie,a burglar, and a bomber) who are invited to the reading of the very strange will of the very rich Samuel W. Westing. The could become millionaires, depending on how they play the game. All they have to do is find the answer — but the answer to what? The Westing game is tricky and dangerous, but the heirs play on — through blizzards, burglaries, and bombings.”

My take: Somehow I missed this children’s classic when I was growing up, but periodically since leaving college it has popped up on my radar screen and I always think, “I should track this down the next time I go to the library.” But by the time I next am choosing books to check out, it’s slipped back into the crevices of my mind.

This time, though, I was contemplating what to read for the Back to the Classics challenge and remembered to go looking for it at the library.

I’m so glad I did.

The general synopsis is this: Six families/individuals are approached about
moving into an empty, five-story, luxury apartment building on the banks of Lake Michigan. The rents are just what each of them can afford and they sign the leases immediately. Later in the fall, each of them (as well as the building’s three general employees) are called to the mansion of the building’s reclusive owner, Samuel W. Westing, paper magnate, to hear the reading of the will of the recently departed millionaire.

Instead of receiving a straight-up inheritance, they find they are paired off and tasked with solving who is responsible for Westing’s death. Each team is presented with a $10,000 check that both must sign to cash and four words to puzzle over.

Everyone returns to the apartment building to meet up with their partner and begin pursuing their task. As time goes on, they begin spending more time with one another, and, to their surprise, they find that their partner gives them just what they need, if not to help win the game, then to win at life.

I heartily recommend this to fans of mysteries, regardless of age, because it will keep you guessing until the end. Its madcap style also will appeal to fans of Clue (the boardgame, but I suppose also the movie), Monty Python, or It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.

I also want to note that the 2003 edition, which is what I borrowed from the library, contains the most heart-warming introduction I’ve ever read written by Ann Durell, Raskin’s editor and friend.

I’ll be checking out Raskin’s other books to see if they, too, are as sweet and as worth reading as The Westing Game ended up being.

Pages: 182

This novel also qualifies for a couple other challenges:

Winner Badge 2011Photobucket

Just Read More Novels Month, for which this is my first contribution


Back to the Classics Challenge 2011, which I blogged about joining here. This qualifies as my children’s/young adult classic book.

Category: books. There is/are 4 Comments.

Oh yay!! I love, love, LOVE that book!!!

Comment by Jenn 01.15.11 @ 7:33 pm

I read this when I was a kid and LOVED it! I had forgotten all about it – thank you for posting this!!!

Comment by Sarah 01.16.11 @ 6:54 am

Hey — you won the giveaway at my blog (Knitting Relaxes Me). Unfortunately, my blogging platform won’t spit out your email address, so please email me! (And if you have the same issue, you can find my on Ravelry as jannabeth.)

Congratulations! I’m glad to see you’re a sock knitter, because I’ve got lots of sock yarn!

Comment by janna 01.16.11 @ 12:26 pm

@Jenn: I quite liked it too!

@Sarah: Thank you for hosting it. Who knows when I would have gotten around to it if left to my own accord…

@janna: Yay! Thank you!

Comment by soe 01.18.11 @ 2:25 am