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McStew (a.k.a. the Gypsy Bandit) is one strange next-door neighbor. It isn't unusual for eleven-year-old Scotty Hansen to find McStew outside burying household appliances with his invisible sidekick named Reese, or plotting ways to vanquish the evil pirate Blackheart. And when Scotty decides to build the tree house his father had planned before his death, McStew, who has an abusive home life, sees it as an opportunity to move in. But soon McStew vanishes altogether, and though he's physically not there anymore, his oddball influence over the lives of Scotty, Scotty's mother, and a number of other people grows stronger than ever. There's romance, a murder, mystery, and plenty of aggravation in store for Scotty in his previously uncomplicated world, and readers will find themselves drawn into it by a fast-paced plot and characters who are smart, funny, and full of heart.
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David Winkler is a schoolteacher in Las Vegas, Nevada, where he lives with his wife and daughter. This is his first book.
Grade 5-8-After his father dies from a brain tumor, Scotty's life becomes strangely entwined with that of eccentric Mick Stewart. This kid, who has an alcoholic mother and an abusive father, constantly pretends to be involved in fantasy adventures in which he is known as "The Gypsy Bandit." Scotty tolerates the boy's strange ways over the summer as they try to complete the tree house that Scotty had reluctantly started with his late father, and he begins to realize that there's more to his neighbor than he had thought. When he stumbles on Mr. Stewart's dead body, Mrs. Stewart is arrested for murder, but Scotty later suspects that McStew might have been involved. There are several other subplots, including Scotty's first romance, his mother's new suitor, and a classmate who schemes to profit from the McStew legend. The story wanders at times, but eventually the plot elements converge nicely, as they all affect Scotty's development. The protagonist is frustratingly passive at times, but he grows as the story progresses. Though not present for much of the novel, McStew indirectly, but significantly, impacts the behavior of self-absorbed Scotty, who gradually develops a stronger sense of himself. Recognizing the courage and sacrifice of the "Gypsy Bandit" allows Scotty to view his own troubles with a broader, more positive eye. While some of the humor and a couple of the plot developments seem contrived, the experiences of Scotty and his enigmatic neighbor are intriguing enough to draw readers into their world.
Steven Engelfried, Deschutes County Library, Bend, OR
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Book Description Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR), 2000. Hardcover. Condition: New. Seller Inventory # DADAX0374364206
Book Description Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR), 2000. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M0374364206