MAY 20:

  • Happy birthday Shirley Rousseau Murphy (Joe Grey Cat Mystery series), Carol Carrick (Patrick’s Dinosaur), Carolyn Croll (What Will the Weather Be? ), Mary Pope Osborne (Magic Tree House series), and Caralyn Buehner (Snowmen at Night).
  • It’s the birth date of Sorche Nic Leodhas (1898-1987), Always Room for One More, and Don Lawson (1917-1990), An Album of the Vietnam War.
  • In 1609, Shakespeare’s sonnets are first published in London. Read Under the Greenwood Tree: Shakespeare for Young People edited by Barbara Holdridge, illustrated by Robin and Pat DeWitt, and Seeing the Blue Between: Advice and Inspiration for Young Poets, compiled by Paul B. Janeczko.

Today has been designated Be a Millionaire Day. Oddly enough, the topics of money and becoming rich rarely find their way into the plots of children’s books. Still the preoccupation of being richer than you are must be a universal childhood fantasy. The book of the day, Gordon Korman’s Swindle focuses on some children who almost became rich—but actually end up solving many of their problems without obtaining a million dollars.

Griffin Bing, The Man with The Plan, thinks big and drags his friends along with him on his various schemes. While sleeping overnight in a house about to be destroyed by a wrecking crew, Griffin finds a baseball card, one featuring Babe Ruth wearing a Boston Red Sox uniform. Griffin has been worried about money; his family may have to leave their neighborhood because they can’t afford to live there. Attempting to get money for the card, he foolishly permits a local trader to swindle him—it turns out the card may actually fetch more than a million dollars in auction.

Since no one will listen to him because he is a kid, Griffin organizes a group of middle schoolers to get the card back. These students can climb, act, calm vicious dogs, hack computers, and provide muscle. So the dream team, filled with school misfits, works to pull off a dramatic heist—and they have only a few hours before the card vanishes forever.

Gordon Korman was himself a Man with a Plan in middle school. In seventh grade, he wrote his first children’s book. Since he collected the money for the Scholastic book club, he submitted this novel to Scholastic Canada, where it was published as This Can’t Be Happening at Macdonald Hall. His plan ever since, some sixty novels into his career, seems to be to keep children reading—particularly those who may not even believe that they like books. His dialogue is spot-on; his characters, intriguing and funny; and his pacing and dramatic tension so good that no reader wants to put down a Gordon Korman book before it is finished. Today, I don’t think I’m actually going to celebrate Be a Millionaire Day, but I would love raise a cheer for Gordon Korman. He should have a holiday just for himself—and after you read Swindle, you will understand why.

Here’s a passage from Swindle:

Ben’s eyes very nearly popped out of their sockets. “You want to pull a what?”

“Shhh,” whispered Griffin. It was lunch recess and the playground was crowded. “A heist.”

“Like in the movies? A robbery? That’s stealing!”

“Not stealing,” Griffin amended. “Stealing back. There’s a big difference.”

“Are the police going to think so?”

“What would the police think about a store owner who rips kids off?” Griffin challenged.

“S. Wendell,” Ben said with a sigh. “Never trust anybody who’s name sounds like swindle.”

“He’s the ultimate Swindle,” Griffin agreed. “He sure swindled me. And the only way to get that card back is to take it. What do you say?”

A hand came down on Ben’s shoulder. “I say it’s time for Mr. Slovak’s allergy medication,” announced Nurse Savage.


Originally posted May 20, 2011. Updated for 2019.

Tags: Humor
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for Swindle


  1. Deb Marshall says:

    Thanks for this. I’ve not read it yet, but have it at the library. Will add it to my pile when I get to work later!

  2. Michelle M. says:

    Haven’t read this book, but read some of his books. They are witty and funny. I heard him speak at my library and he was great!

  3. Caryl B. says:

    My 4th grade daughter loves these books!

  4. Erica S. says:

    I just purchased a set of these books for my school library at the Scholastic Book Fair – I’ll be sure to read them myself! Thanks for the background info on Korman’s start as a writer. I love sharing interesting author facts with my students, and the one about Korman submitting his first novel is great.

  5. Robyn says:

    Anita you are spot-on yourself. Korman’s plan seems to be to keep children reading. In fact he does it so well that he keeps many of us adults reading as well.

    Swindle is entertaining and has all the elements of a good heist. No wonder there have been rumors of a movie deal…or have they already made one?

  6. When I think of children’s books about money, I fondly remember “A Billion for Boris,” one of Mary Rodgers’ trilogy that started with “Freaky Friday.” A television set that sees into the future lends itself to all sorts of ways of becoming wealthy…or should this power be used to help people instead? I loved all three of these books, along with “Summer Switch,” when I was growing up.

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