Hands-down, my favorite chapter book is The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin.
It’s the only Newbery Medal winner among my favorite books, and it’s easy to see why it won. As an adult I find this book as witty and brilliant as ever, especially since it reveals the interior lives of not only the children in the story, but the adults as well.
In 2000, School Library Journal named The Westing Game one of “One Hundred Books That Shaped the Century.”
In the front of the edition I currently own (published by Puffin Books in 1992), there is a quote from The Horn Book describing it as “a fascinating medley of word games, disguises, multiple aliases, and subterfuges – a demanding but rewarding book.” I couldn’t agree more!
The Westing Game begins with a great first line: “The sun sets in the west (just about everyone knows that), but Sunset Towers faced east.” That’s only the first of many strange details in this convoluted and funny mystery. The story opens with an odd man named Barney Northrup leasing apartments to mysteriously selected tenants. But at the end of the very first chapter, the reader learns that something has gone wrong…“Barney Northrup had rented one of the apartments to the wrong person.”
After this portentous beginning, the book skips ahead several months and begins to follow the lives of 16 residents of Sunset Towers, who soon find out that they may be heirs to the fortune of eccentric millionaire Samuel Westing. According to the dictates of his will, the heirs are paired and set off to play the game, win, and inherit millions.
I love the interactions between the characters (especially the adult-child pairs), and I love the way the children are savvy and, at times, much smarter than the grown-ups. And I love the way this clever mystery unfolds. The Westing Game is just a sharply-crafted, rollicking good read!