I was swindled one time. I paid more for something than it was worth. I so much wanted to get even, but never did. As I read Gordon Korman’s, I realized why I shouldn’t want to get even. He showed me through his main character’s efforts that even if I succeeded with getting even, I still may lose.
The story began with invitations going out to 29 people to sleep over in an old house scheduled to be demolished the following day. Griffin Bing, the story’s main character, planned the sleepover as a protest against Cedarville’s plan to tear down the house and replace it with a museum instead of a skate park. To Griffin’s disappointment, the only other sleepover guest was his best friend, Ben Slovak. The other 28 invitees failed to show up. While Ben slept, Griffin wandered around the house and came across a locked desk. After some work, he was able to open the drawer and discovered a Babe Ruth baseball card.
After narrowly escaping the wrecking ball the following morning, Griffin and Ben went to Palomino’s Emporium of Collectibles. Griffin hoped to sell the card and get enough money to help his family’s financial problems. To Griffin’s disappointment, S. Wendell Palomino (sleazy owner and proprietor of the shop) offered him only $120 claiming the card was a copy. Soon afterwards, Griffin was in his family garage when he saw Palomino on television bragging about an original Babe Ruth baseball card that he was going to auction off. He expected to get around $1 million for it. Griffin realized he had been swindled; the story’s problem had been revealed. It was a character versus character conflict.
Griffin, a 5th graders, was known for his planning ability. Although his plan for the protest didn’t quite materialize as he’d hoped, Griffin was determined that his plan to get the card back would succeed. Griffin had to break into Palomino’s Emporium and get into the lockbox. His first obstacle was unexpected. He expected Ben to help him with the heist. But Ben would not help.
Griffin’s luck changed when Ben discovered that the Bing’s house was up for sale. Realizing the importance to Griffin to get the card back, Ben agreed to help. Griffin and Ben staked out the Emporium to determine the obstacles they would need to get past to get to the lockbox. They discovered they would have to climb over a fence, get past a viscious dog, get inside the shop, deactivate the alarm, and break into the lockbox.
Griffin put together a plan to get the lockbox. His friend, Savannah, tamed the viscous Doberman. Griffin and Ben watched a video of the shop assistance entering the alarm code. They were able to figure out 3 of the 4 numbers, but it took help from Griffin’s father to get the 4th number. Everything went as planned on the day, except the Doberman was missing and the lock box was gone. What was supposed to be a fine ending to the story became the second major obstacle.
They soon realized that lockbox was now in Palomino’s 531 Park Avenue Extension house. The duo faced their next obstacle, the house had the Doberman and an advanced security system protecting the card. How could they break in and not be detected? As they discussed their plan in class as material for a story, Mr. Martinez, the teacher, suggested the two visit City Hall to look at the floor plans for the house. To their dismay, City Hall did not have the plans, but they had plans for an identical house. They obtained a copy, but could not figure out how to enter. They needed to go inside the other house, the next obstacle.
Griffin concocted a successful plan that got the two into the house. While Ben got the owner to help him take care of a pretended injury, Griffin was able to scout around the house. Ironically, it was Ben that discovered the entry through a skylight in the bathroom.
Griffin realized that it would take more than just Ben and himself to break into the house. Griffin invited 4 other friends to join him. He put together a plan. Logan befriended a neighbor and distracted him. Melissa used her computer skills to break into Palomino’s e-mail account. Savannah kept Luther, the Doberman distracted. Antonia led the team through the skylight. Ben was the watch. Darren, an uninvited participant, was the muscle. The team lured Palomino away from the house with a free Rangers game ticket. Everything went well until they broke into the lock box and discovered the card was not there, another obstacle.
While searching for steaks in the freezer to distract Luther and the other guard dog, Savannah came across a turkey with the card hidden up its rear. As the team was getting ready to leave the house, Darren snatched the card. As Darren left the house, he tripped letting go of the card. The wind took it up in the trees. At this point, the story was reaching its high point. As Darren quickly climbed the tree to get the card for himself, Griffin dashed home to get his dad’s fruit picking device. Griffin was able to safely grab the card with the device. But as Griffin was bringing the card down with the device, the branch holding Darren broke. Darren and the branch crashed into a window and set off the alarm. The members ran off.
As the action was declining, the police eventually discovered Griffin was responsible for the break in. But Griffin did not have the card. As the action was calming down, Griffin went over to the Rockford house mail box, the only item remaining after the demolition, to snatch the letter. As he walked away, a detective walked up and discovered Griffin with the card. Griffin explained everything to the detective.
The book ended with the details of the swindle being printed in the local newspaper. Palomino decided not press charges. The bad publicity caused a severe drop in business at the Emporium forcing it to close. The publicity generated a lot of positive attention for Griffin’s father’s picking device which brought in investors with money that solved the Bing’s financial problems. Griffin had to give up the card to last remaining Rockford relative. Ironically, the rich old relative was also related to Darren and gave him the card. But the irony did not end there. Darren’s parents made him donate the funds from the card’s sale to the city for the museum. The final irony of the story was that the city built a skate park next to the museum. What Griffin began trying to have done was actually done.