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'Jackpot' by Gordon Korman: A fabulous addition to the 'Swindle' series

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Jackpot by Gordon Korman

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Just when you think it can't get any better, Gordon Korman takes the middle grade series "Swindle" to a new level with "Jackpot." This book includes the characters readers love from the previous books but brings in a new character. In addition to the usual madcap adventures and misadventures, there are interactions between the friends that could lead to thoughtful classroom discussion.

"Jackpot" begins as most of the series does, with Griffin Bing, aka "the man with the plan," creating a plan. This plan is to get even with their archenemy Darren Vader. The plan backfires, and Griffin's friends are not happy with the fallout. Darren plays the victim and accused Griffin of being a bully.

Just then, a new kid arrives in town. Victor Phoenix is determined to make friends at his new school. When he must find a new home for his cat (he claims his dad is allergic), Savannah the animal lover immediately offers to foster the cat until Victor's dad gets help for the allergies. Her beloved Doberman, Luthor, does not take kindly to the newcomer.

What makes the plot of this book fresh and different is what happens to the group. Griffin is terribly angry when Victor is cruel to him (because he thinks Griffin is a bully) and his friends don't see the cruelty, so he distances himself from them.

Of course, there is a new plan, and it's one that all the characters are involved in -- even if they all aren't aware it's Griffin's plan. A winning 30-million dollar lottery ticket is missing. It was purchased in the next town, and no one ever claimed the prize. The clock is running on the one-year time limit to claim the ticket, and the group decides that they want to find it.

Korman manages to include the subjects of bullying and forgiveness in this book. Each of the "Swindle" series is more than just a middle-grade adventure (although they are adventures). They show kindness and generosity in action. This book is no different. There is a bad guy, and there are good guys, and there are bad guys who are maybe not so bad and good guys who may make mistakes. Just like real life.

Please note: This review is based on the final hardcover book provided by the publisher, Scholastic Press, for review purposes.

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