Owen Birnbaum is the fat kid. In fact he's 57% fatter than most kids. He's also 1 point shy of genius...a fact that doesn't give him much cred from the other kids in his school. The days when Owen has gym class are worst of all.
Mr. Wooly is the sadistic gym teacher of which nightmares are made. Unless you're a jock, you don't have a chance, and what better target than the fat kid? In his mind, Owen stands up to the attacks and the humiliation, but in reality, classes usually end up in shame faced tears. The three Oreos that his mom puts in his lunch sack are sometimes the only thing that make the day bearable.
One day, his cookies disappear. Everything else in his lunch sack is left behind, and the container that the Oreos were in is actually sealed back up. Owen is beside himself. Now the little bright spot in his day is gone. Right away he starts theorizing about who could have taken his cookies. That new kid Mason left the room before lunch...maybe it's him. After all, Mason is a psychopath with no friends and Owen figures it wouldn't be beyond Mason to take the fat kid's cookies.
When Owen goes home he tries to come up with an invention to catch the thief. Inventing is Owen's thing. He and his sister Jeremy comb the demolition lots of Manhattan looking for parts that they can use. Owen is currently working on a project he calls Nemesis, but figures taking a break to booby trap his lunch sack is worth it.
But what if Owen is wrong? And wrong about more than just the thief.
Ellen Potter has penned an intriguing middle grade novel. Owen is a sympathetic character for sure, but his little sister Jeremy and neighbor Nima are richly written and I can picture spin off stories for each of them. Mr. Wooly, I am sorry to say, reminds me very much of a gym teacher from my own junior high days, and he is sure to elicit strong reader response.
Equally appealing to boys and girls, Slob, is tricky in that it is more than a fat kid story. There are many layers, and readers will most likely take different stories away from it. For some, it will be the story of bullies. For others, the story of a family who has lost so much. It could be a story about the shifting nature of friendship, or a glimmer into the idea of gender identity. Or perhaps all of the above.