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Simmons, Michael.
Roaring Brook Press, 2003.
ISBN 0761318852

(2 booktalks)

Booktalk #1

Brett had it all.  And I mean all.  Fifteen and from a rich family.  Not just rich -- filthy rich.  Life was good.  Until the day the police showed up at the door and took his father away.  Can you believe it?  His father was convicted of a white collar crime and now he's in prison.  And Brett, his mother and his sister are forced to live with a crazy aunt.  They've lost the house and sold everything.  Brett is angry!  And maybe he has a right to be.  He even has to find a job to help out.  When the old man who used to clean their pool offers him a job, he takes it.  I mean how hard can it be to clean pools all day.  What Brett can't know is how this summer job will change his life forever.

Booktalk #2

Spoiled fifteen-year-old Brett Gerson had it all—wealth, mansion with pool, Mercedes, $5,000 stereo—until his father is imprisoned for insider trading; and the Gersons lose everything and are forced to move in with an eccentric aunt.  Forced to find a job, Brett takes one as a pool-cleaning assistant with 70-ish Alfie, who once cleaned Brett’s own swimming pool.  Brett angrily resents it all and hates his father.  His most humiliating moment comes when he is called “pool boy” by the insensitive lady who now owns the luxurious home and pool that was once Brett’s family’s.

Throughout the summer, Brett builds a warm friendship with Alfie, to whom Brett can unload his bitterness toward his father and his humiliation of being poor while his friends still enjoy the “good life.”  When a tragedy befalls Algie, Brett realizes how much he loved being with Algie—“clean[ing] pools together, and goof[ing] off and driv[ing] around in his van.”  Brett realizes the legacy that Alfie has left him—not only the van and the business, but the meaning of love and loyalty.  He knows that his father needs him, and he needs his father.  Although still unhappy with his Dad, Brett initiates the move toward healing their relationship.

Narrated by Brett himself, the “voice” is that of an angry, sarcastic, spoiled kid in the jargon of today’s teens but the tone gradually becomes more thoughtful, but still feisty.  This is a believable and touching story of a kid coming to terms with himself, his anger, and the realization of what is truly important in life.  (Patricia Hartley, South Carolina Book Awards, 2006)

SUBJECTS:     Fathers and sons -- Fiction.
                        Wealth -- Fiction.
                        Prisoners -- Fiction.
                        Family life -- California -- Fiction.
                        California -- Fiction.


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