Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The Boy Who Lost His Face - Louis Sachar


Louis Sachar's The Boy Who Lost His Face is an intriguing book, that's mostly a look at peer pressure, but also considers friendship and responsibility.

David Ballinger is desperate to be part of the popular crowd to which his best friend since second grade, Scott Simpson, now belongs. He goes along with Scott, Roger and Randy when they decide to play a cruel stunt on an old lady, Mrs Bayfield. The boys have decided to steal her snake-headed walking stick, but they don't stop there; one tips her backwards in her chair, another pours lemonade in her face; they also trample her flowers and break a window with the lemonade jug. David stands and watches, but doesn't participate. Then, as he's about to leave, he makes a rude gesture at Mrs Bayfield who appears to put a curse on him.

Soon afterwards David starts to feel very guilty about what the boys have done. He soon comes to believe that the old lady is a witch and that the curse she put on him is affecting his life when things start to go wrong, such as when he breaks a window and nearly injures his baby sister with his baseball. Things get progressively worse - his adoring younger brother Ricky, suddenly hates him and he walks into his Spanish class with his fly undone. The last straw, though, comes when David's trousers fall down just as he's talking to the girl of his dreams about going on a date. Convinced that this can't just be bad luck, he rushes off to see Mrs Bayfield who tells him to bring back her walking stick. He thinks that she will remove the curse if he does so. But things don't turn out quite the way that David expects.

I thoroughly enjoy reading The Boy Who Lost His Face - I've actually lost count of how many times I've read it, but it's probably at least six. And even though I know what happens and how it ends, I still enjoy the suspense of Sachar's repetition of "Little did he know that one day his own face would be hanging on her wall." Somehow that remains spooky and slightly unnerving, even on re-reading. I love all of Sachar's books that I've read; his sense of humour and playfulness are always very apparent, and his themes are never conveyed in a heavy-handed manner. I was surprised to discover this morning, a reference to it being a frequently challenged book.

What do you think of this book, and in particular, what are your thoughts on the Epilogue ?

6 comments:

Little Willow said...

Like most of Sachar's books, I read this more than once as a kid. I liked it, as I liked his others, and I read them before I was in middle school myself. I don't own a copy so I can't refer to it right now. I don't recall the epilogue offhand.

My favorite Sachar is still Sixth Grade Secrets, followed by Sideways Stories from Wayside School.

Michele said...

I've not read the Sideways Stories, though I've seen some of them in the library. Haven't seen "Sixth Grade Secrets" though.

Little Willow said...

I highly recommend Sixth Grade Secrets to every kid entering middle school, and to all librarians / booksellers / etc that work with that age group.

Sideways Stories is a hoot and a half. Each chapter focuses on one character (or a few, in some cases) from the class, and every reader finds someone that is an exaggerated version of themselves.

Michele said...

I'll see if I can remember to pick them up next time I'm in the library...

Catherine said...

I also have read a lot of Sachar but this title was new to me and I wouldn't rank it among my favorite -- seemed forced and heavy handed on the guilt and atonement issues. It would be a good title to recommend for a book on peer pressure though, with a warning about the "rude gesture". I'm not surprised it's been challenged -- many parents that use our library would be offended. Most of them are open minded enough to just say "not for my child" though.
I'm not doing Harry Potter, so I'll be back in October. Meanwhile, I'm almost done with Mister Monday with Grim Tuesday waiting and also almost done with Shadow in the North. Unrelated to this book discussion but highly recommended, just finished I am the Messenger by Zusak.

Michele said...

Sorry you found it heavy-handed - I didn't, I thought Sachar had done it quite lightly; different perspectives I guess.