Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Swindle by Gordon Korman

During summer school this year, my friends and I read the first two books in the Swindle series by Gordon Korman.  I thought I would tell you a bit more about this series because my friends LOVED THIS BOOK!  We are talking VERY reluctant readers who loved a book so much THEY BEGGED TO READ THE SECOND BOOK IN THE SERIES!  Reluctant readers who would BEG ME FOR INDEPENDENT READING TIME SO THEY COULD READ!  Reluctant readers who didn't really become cranky when they had to give a written response to the lit. questions.  Okay, maybe they were a little cranky about the writing, but not nearly as much as I anticipated simply because they loved the book.

Swindle was actually published in 2009 and has been floating around in my class library for a while.   I used it for shared reading with my summer school friends.  It was also their required summer reading novel and I knew if we didn't do it together, they just wouldn't have done it.

Swindle is the story of a group of eleven year olds led by Griffin Bing, the man with the plan.  In this book, Griffin finds a rare collectible Babe Ruth card that will be the answer to his family's money problems.  However, he is swindled out of the card by a con man named S. Wendell Palamino.  Griffin and his friends embark on a plan to steal his card back from Palamino.  Perhaps the best book description I've come across is from Amazon's site where they call the book "Ocean's 11. . .  with 11-year-olds, in a super stand-alone heist caper."  It really is an Ocean's 11 for kids!  It has the heist, the humor, and great characters.

Swindle is authored by Gordon Korman.  If you don't know Gordon Korman, I promise you are probably familiar with his work as he wrote two of the ten books in the 39 Clues book series.  That book series could be another post on its own! If you want to know more about the 39 Clues books, click on this link for all you need to know.  Suffice to say, Gordon Korman is an excellent author who really knows how to hook your young friends.

Swindle is a great book for teaching character traits.  The characters are all very different and each brings a special skill to the heist.  The are also easily relatable for your friends.  They will be sure to see themselves in one or another of the characters.  It also has a lot of material for problem/solution lessons.  In a deeper lesson, there is a great question over what is legally right vs. what is morally right, and character motivation.
According to Scholastic Book Wizard, Swindle has a grade level equivalent is 4.4, and a Lexile level of 710L.  Another site also notes it to be a DRA level 40 and a Guided Reading level S.

After reading Swindle, we read the next book in the series Zoobreak. In this book, we find the same group of friends planning another heist.  This time, they are breaking a monkey out of a run-down floating zoo.  However, they end up breaking out ALL the animals to save them from the money hungry zoo owner.  The problem is, what do you do with all these animals once you've broken them out of the zoo?  The next two books in the series are Framed and Showoff, both involving our same group of eleven-year-olds.

I would recommend Swindle as a great book for all your friends, but I think it is especially a good "go to" if you have some boys who aren't that interested in reading.  I've listed some links below for Swindle just in case you decide to use it..  A couple are linked in the post, but here they are in all.

  • Official site for Gordon Korman - There is a lot to explore on this site.  You can also find more about the many other books he has written.
  • Chapter 1 of Swindle - Scholastic provides this link which gives you a download of chapter 1 of Swindle. 
  • Scholastic's Swindle - This Scholastic page has a preview of the book, games, more about this author and some general information.
  • Teachers Pay Teachers - This is the search results for Swindle on Teachers Pay Teachers.  Our colleagues have been very busy creating a lot of material for this book!
  • Chapter Guide - I found this PDF by Janelle McInerney that is a gem.  It gives you some prereading activities and for each chapter it lists vocabulary, questions, and a journal topic.  It ends with interdisciplinary activities, a list of Gordon Korman's other books, and some additional web sites.  A gem!
  • Right There! - Schoolwires offers this three page PDF of story questions.  I called it "Right There!" because they seem to be all "right there" questions where the answer can be found in the text.   They are not inferential or higher-level thinking questions per say.  However, they would be great for a quick review game in class.
So, there you have it.  A good book and some resources to go along with it.  If nothing else, this book would be a fun read aloud for your friends.  I hope you like it as much as I did.


  1. Oh my boys LOVE this series. (Well the girls do to, but not as much as my boy readers!) Thanks for all the extra resources.

    Chickadee Jubilee

  2. YAY, Nancy! I have several copies of this book in my classroom library.
    Sounds like one I need to "talk up" a bit more.
    Thanks for the recommendation!

    Finding JOY in 6th Grade

  3. This is always a huge hit in my classroom too. I have a book set and my boys just love it! Sadly, I haven't read the others in the series. I suppose I should get busy. I'd love to have you add this post to my most recent Fiction Friday weekly linky party where teachers come together to share book reviews and ideas. :)

    The Teaching Thief
    Fiction Friday: A Celebration of Children’s Literature

  4. I have recently begun website for my friends in grade 7 and 8, however am not sure about blogging...I mean what would I say? Anyway, I have had many boys read Swindle and they love them!!

  5. Love, love, love this book series! Thank you for the links.