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Westing Game

Last updated Monday, December 27, 2010

Author: Ellen Raskin
Date of Publication: 1978
ISBN: 0525471375
Grade Level: 5th    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Nov. 2010

Synopsis: This highly inventive mystery involves sixteen people who are invited to the reading of Samuel W. Westing's will. They could become millionaires, depending on how they play the tricky and dangerous Westing game, which involves blizzards, burglaries, and bombings. Ellen Raskin has entangled a remarkable cast of characters in a puzzle-knotted, word-twisting plot filled with humor, intrigue, and suspense.

Note to readers:
•  Note: Readers may choose to skip chapters 3 and 5 so as to get to more interesting parts of the book. Chapters 3 and 5 mostly contain details about and revealing conversation amongst the heirs, but those details are probably only necessary if someone were to read the entire book to solve the mystery.

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  Have you ever played chess? What do you know about chess? Have you ever played the board game “Clue”?
•  Do you like mysteries? What mysteries have you read or watched (tv or movies)?Have you ever wished you would inherit a huge amount of money?

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  End of Ch. 1: Is there anything suspicious about Sunset Towers? The way the apartments are sold? Where was Sydelle Pulaski directing a suspicious stare? How did Barney finally convince Sydelle Pulaski to take the apartment? List the various types of people that would be the new tenants in Sunset Towers. At the end of the chapter we are told that one of the tenants was a mistake. Which tenant do you think was a mistake, and why?
•  During Ch. 2: Would you take the bet that Turtle takes? Why or why not? For how much money would you take the bet?
•  Ch. 4: What does Turtle notice is not mentioned in the newspaper article? Sam's obituary mentions that he was a dedicated gamesman and a master of chess. Why might this be significant?
•  Throughout Ch. 6: How well does Sam Westing know his heirs? (Notice how he anticipates in the will which heirs will stand up in surprise or frustration)

Craft ideas:
•  Create a list of your own possessions, deciding who you want to have your belongings, and how they have to earn receiving them
•  Consider printing out copies of either of the crossword puzzles (and their clues) from the site at http://library.thinkquest.org/CR0214945/games/games_main.html
•  Imagine inheriting $200 million - draw what you would do with the money.

Special activities:
•  Characters James Shin Hoo: As a failed inventor who blames Westing for stealing his inventions, James started a restaurant in Sunset Towers that isn't successful. He doesn't understand his wife or "dumb jock" of a son.
•  Sun Lin Hoo: She comes from China, and speaks little English, which isolates her from most residents.
•  Doug Hoo: A high school senior who runs; his dad criticizes him for not studying. His stepmother is very proud of his accomplishments.
•  Dr. Jake Wexler: A podiatrist and a bookie. He is a caring father and loving husband, and the only tenant in Sunset Tower to make any attempt to communicate with Madame Hoo other than her own family.
•  Grace Windsor Wexler: A social climber who presents herself as sophisticated and upper-class.
•  Angela Wexler: Beautiful older daughter of the Wexlers and her mother's perfect angel who pushes her older daughter extremely hard and has arranged her engagement to the surgeon Dr. Denton Deere.
•  "Turtle" Wexler or T.R. Wexler: Younger sister to Angela, she’s 13 and acts out for attention. Theo Theodorakis: Doug Hoo's partner and aspiring writer. He gives up his goal to save money for his brother Chris' operation.
•  Christos Theodorakis: "Chris" is wheelchair bound by an illness, he initially has difficulties with speech and muscle control until Dr. Deere helps him.
•  George and Catherine Theodorakis: The only two residents of the Sunset Towers not named an heir.
•  Sydelle Pulaski: Sydelle is the overlooked secretary who finds herself chosen to become a Westing heir.
•  Otis Amber: Otis is the sixty-two-year-old delivery 'boy', but is more than that by the end of the book.
•  Berthe Erica Crow: Known to most only as "Crow," she is a cleaning woman for Sunset Tower.
•  Flora Baumbach: An overly cheery, perky dressmaker. She has developed her exaggeratedly cheerful disposition in order to cope with tragedy in her own past.
•  Dr. D. Denton Deere: An intern to become a plastic surgeon, and is engaged to Angela Wexler.
•  Josie-Jo Ford: A highly competent woman judge, the daughter of the Westing's maid who played chess with Sam Westing (and lost). Westing saw her intelligence and paid for her education.
•  Sandy McSouthers: The cheerful doorman with a chipped tooth, he has a grudge against Sam Westing, who fired him from trying to organize the workers.
•  Julian R. Eastman: The chairman of Westing Paper Products who takes interest in all of the heirs.
•  Edgar Jennings Plum: A bumbling, disorganized, lawyer who is executing the will of Sam Westing.
•  Samuel W. Westing: Sam Westing was a self-made millionaire until his tragic and mysterious death. Writing a will and leaving his life fortune to his sixteen "Nieces and Nephews" knowing that greed would keep them playing his last game.

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don’t have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!