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The Cardturner

The Cardturner

4.3 57
by Louis Sachar

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The summer after junior year of high school looks bleak for Alton Richards. His girlfriend has dumped him, he has no money and no job, and his parents insist that he drive his great-uncle Lester, who is old, blind, very sick, and very rich, to his bridge club four times a week and be his cardturner. 
     But Alton's parents aren't the


The summer after junior year of high school looks bleak for Alton Richards. His girlfriend has dumped him, he has no money and no job, and his parents insist that he drive his great-uncle Lester, who is old, blind, very sick, and very rich, to his bridge club four times a week and be his cardturner. 
     But Alton's parents aren't the only ones trying to worm their way into Lester Trapp's good graces. There is Trapp's longtime housekeeper, his alluring young nurse, and the crazy Castaneda family.
     Alton soon finds himself intrigued by his uncle, by the game of bridge, and especially by the pretty and shy Toni Castaneda, as he struggles to figure out what it all means, and ultimately to figure out the meaning of his own life.

Editorial Reviews

Mary Quattlebaum
…Sachar handles complicated narrative structures with a light, sure touch, as he did in his brilliant Holes. This new novel deftly threads bridge diagrams and philosophical ideas through the short chapters of a coming-of-age story. And readers needn't be card sharks to enjoy the book. They can choose to wend through carefully marked descriptions of the characters' bridge play or skip them entirely and stick to the basic story line. Either way leads straight to Alton's quiet heart and his developing desire to become his own cardturner in the big game of life.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
“I realize that reading about a bridge game isn't exactly thrilling,” 17-year-old narrator Alton tells readers early on. Luckily, this funny and thoughtful novel is as much about building bridges—between generations and maybe even between life and death—as it is about playing cards. Alton gets roped into serving as a card turner for his great-uncle, Lester Trapp, a bridge whiz who recently lost his eyesight (Alton's job is to read Trapp's cards for him). Though Alton barely knows Trapp, his opportunistic mother won't miss a chance for Alton to get in good with his “favorite uncle,” who's wealthy and in poor health. To Alton's surprise, he becomes enamored of the game and begins to bond with his crusty uncle—who shares insight into synchronicity and the connection between reality and perception. With dry, understated humor, Alton makes the intricacies of bridge accessible, while his relationships with and observations about family members and friends (including an ex-girlfriend, a manipulative best friend, and especially Trapp's former card turner) form a portrait of a reflective teenager whose life is infinitely enriched by connections he never expected to make. Ages 12–up. (May)
VOYA - Matthew Weaver
At his parents' urging, Alton Richards begins assisting his wealthy great-uncle Trapp, a master bridge player. Trapp is blind and his last cardturner dared to question him, so Alton's parents see this as the perfect opportunity to get in good with Trapp. Soon, Alton learns the rules of the game, and hints to a long-buried scandal involving a presidential hopeful's wife. He also develops a love of the game himself. He gets to know his predecessor, the lovely — yet likely insane — Toni Castaneda, a possible rival for Trapp's fortune — and a potential soul mate. Already well-versed at immersing readers in fantastic, strange new worlds, Sachar is the first to admit that a novel about bridge seems unlikely. To prove this point, he includes pictures of a whale as a warning any time the story goes into "Moby Dick"-style detail. Still, all of his artistry is on display, with rich characters, an intriguing mystery and more than a dash of infectious enthusiasm. It's not hard to envision extracurricular bridge competitions popping up in schools all over as a result. Perhaps because of its relatively unusual subject matter, the story never fully reaches the epic proportions achieved in his previous classics like Holes (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1998/VOYA December 1998) and Sideways Stories from Wayside School (HarperCollins,1998), but Sachar has undeniably written the Great American Bridge Novel. Reviewer: Matthew Weaver
Melanie Hundley
The summer between junior and senior year doesn't look exciting for Alton Richards. He has no job so he has no money. His girlfriend dumps him so she can date his best friend. Then his parents insist that he drive his rich great-uncle Lester to bridge club four times a week. Because Uncle Lester is old and blind, Alton will also have to be his cardturner—even though Alton has no idea what that means. Alton becomes fascinated by his wealthy, old, and blind great-uncle and worries about the number of people trying to worm their way into Lester's good graces (and his will). As Alton learns bridge, he struggles to figure out his own life, his relationship with pretty Toni Castaneda, and the difference between perception and reality. This wry and witty novel makes you question what you know and what you think you know. Reviewer: Melanie Hundley
School Library Journal
Gr 7–10—It's the summer after his junior year of high school, and Alton Richards is told by his parents that he must drive his blind, rich great-uncle Trapp to his bridge club four times a week and turn cards for him in this novel (Delacorte, 2010) by Louis Sachar. His mother hopes that by worming his way into his uncle's affections, the family might be written into his will. It's soon apparent that there are others with the same intentions. Despite Trapp's blindness and health issues, he is a master bridge player and Alton turns out to be his right hand man in more ways than one. As the card games progress Alton develops admiration and respect for his seemingly cranky old uncle as well as the game of bridge. Sachar reads each chapter of the first-person narrative in a deceptively matter-of-fact style that contains all the angst, apathy, and humor that defines Alton.—Ivy Miller, Wyoming Seminary Upper School, Kingston, PA
Kirkus Reviews
Who wants to read a novel about playing bridge-a dull, old-fashioned game nobody plays anymore, some old person's idea of fun before there were cell phones, television, iPods and video games? That's what 17-year-old Alton Richards thinks about bridge when he gets a job as cardturner for his diabetic, blind and curmudgeonly (and fabulously rich) Uncle Lester Trapp, a bridge master. In a journey into the culture of bridge and its alien rules and language, Alton comes to see the extraordinary in Trapp and to consider such new ideas as perception, synchronicity, randomness and the subconscious. Alton's first-person voice is the right vehicle for taking readers into this world and delineating how Alton is changed by the newfound relationship with his uncle and sort-of cousin Toni. Readers need not be card sharks to appreciate this unusual story; in fact, they will soon realize they've been dealt more than cards in this narrative of how big ideas and unforgettable characters affect Alton as he learns to take charge of his life and play his own hand. Intelligent readers will love this work-it's in the cards. (appendix) (Fiction. 12 & up)

Product Details

Random House Audio Publishing Group
Publication date:
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

My Favorite Uncle    

Ever since I was a little kid, I've had it drilled into me that my uncle Lester was my favorite uncle. My mother would thrust the phone at me and say, "Uncle Lester wants to talk to you," her voice infused with the same forced enthusiasm she used to describe the deliciousness of canned peas. "Tell him you love him."  

"I love you, Uncle Lester," I'd say.  

"Tell him he's your favorite uncle."  

"You're my favorite uncle."  

It got worse as I got older. I never knew what to say to him, and he never seemed all that interested in talking to me. When I became a teenager I felt silly telling him he was my favorite uncle, although my mother still urged me to do so. I'd say things like "Hey, how's it goin'?" and he'd grunt some response. He might ask me a question about school. I imagine it was a great relief to both of us when my mother took back the phone. Our brief conversations always left me feeling embarrassed, and just a little bit creepy.  

He was actually my great-uncle, having been my mother's favorite uncle long before he was mine.  

I didn't know how much money he had, but he was rich enough that he never had to be nice to anyone. Our favorite uncle never visited us, and I think my mother initiated all the phone conversations with him. Later, after he got really sick, he wouldn't even talk to her. My mother would call almost daily, but she could never get past his housekeeper.   I had only met Uncle Lester face to face one time, at his sixty-fifth birthday party. I was six years old, and to me, his house seemed like a castle on a mountaintop. I said the obligatory "Happy birthday" and "I love you" and "You're my favorite uncle" and then steered clear of him.  

"His heart is as cold as a brick," my father said on the drive home.  

That phrase has stuck with me, I think, because my father used the word cold instead of hard.  

My elementary school was a brick building. Every day on the way home, I would drag my fingers over the hard, and yes, cold surface.  

I'm in high school now, but still whenever I walk by a brick building, I feel compelled to touch it. Even now, as I write this, I can almost feel the hard coolness, the sharp edges, and the roughness of the cement between the bricks.       

Meet the Author

LOUIS SACHAR is the author of the New York Times #1 bestseller Holes and the award-winning Small Steps, as well as Stanley Yelnats' Survival Guide to Camp Green Lake. Louis Sachar is an avid bridge player.

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Cardturner 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 57 reviews.
MaggieAntonCA More than 1 year ago
I'm a big fan of HOLES as well as a bridge player, so I figured to enjoy Louis Sachar's new book for teens, THE CARDTURNER [never mind that my teenage years are long past]. But I LOVED THIS BOOK! You can find the plot in other reviews. I'm going to rave about the writing, the characters, the philosophy, and the plot. Sachar puts you in hero Alton's head so perfectly that everything Alton does/says/thinks is fully integrated into a sympathetic personality. The other characters are run the gamut of humanity without being stereotypes: spunky kid sister, odious parents, manipulative best friend, cranky elderly uncle, and crazy cousin who turns out to be not so crazy after all. But THE CARDTURNER is more than a "how I spent my summer" teen novel. The mystery that Alton's family has tried so hard to conceal is carefully revealed, mental illness and domestic violence rear their ugly heads, the mutual distain between Alton and his elderly uncle slowly becomes respect and admiration, and young love blooms. Add in some ghosts and philosophical discussions for good measure, plus last, but not least, the game of Bridge. If anything can get kids to start playing bridge, this book will do it. Unfortunately for me, this is one of the crummy things about being a novelist myself. I used to read fantastic novels that left me feeling, well, fantastic. Reading Sachar's latest work certainly does that, but it also makes me realize that I'll never be able to write so well. Sigh. Maggie Anton www.rashisdaughters.com
Of_Books_and_Birds More than 1 year ago
This book is an extraordinary example of good writing. Louis Sachar took something as seemingly uninteresting as Bridge (the card game) and made it a central focus to tell the story of growth, love, life, and to point out what is important in life and what it is not. This story is easy to read and an excellent book to share with teenage boys to read by themselves or to read with them. We can all relate with the characters and their stories unfold in interesting and delightful ways. I would definitely recommend this book to adults and teens alike.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was absoulutely great. luved it. didn't hate it 1 bit. im 13, and i think that this book is great, great, great. i just skipped over the bridge parts and read the sum box. honestly, if u didn't read the sum box then u wouldn't really get wat is goin on in the back. who would hate this book anyway???
jrl4811 More than 1 year ago
Although it is a young adult book, I gave a copy to all my bridge buddies and several non-bridge-playing friends that have expressed an interest in learning the game. I've asked that they share the books with their kids/grandkids to get more people interested in bridge. This book is so lovely, and well written. You need not know anything about bridge to enjoy it. Those that have read it agreed that it is a wonderful book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The first few chapters were a little hard to get thru but after that i couldnt put this book down! Highly recpmmended. Makes me want to learn bridge
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you love adventure or card game mistery you should read the book TheCardTurner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I grew up reading most of the books he published and this was by far my favorite book of his.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hello anyone?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love it. Its the best book i have read all year of couse it has only been 1month
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Alton has to bring uncle trapp to a club named brige every other day and uncle trapp is blind so cant see cards.whant to read more? Just read the book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Alton has to drive his great uncle to his bridge games, but when he dies Alton and a girl named Toni gets closer and they play in a bridge competition, Alton plays in the bridge game as his dead great uncle Lester Trapp and Toni plays as her great grandmother Annable Finnick who is also dead but old bridge players. The Cardturner is a really good book. It is a fiction book but with real life problems going on. The author Louis Sachar puts at the beginning of the book that his publisher, editor, his wife, and agent said the he was crazy and told him that “know one is going to want to read a book about bridge”. But it is not all about bridge it is a story with bridge players.    Louis Sachar gives really good description about the characters like how old Alton is, all the problems that his great uncle Lester Trapp has. The book has the characters telling stories of what have happened through their lives playing bridge, and meeting new bridge friends. This is a book that will keep you happy and want to keep reading and want to  know more about it. It has information about bridge and it will make you want to learn how to play bridge if you don’t know how to.
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InkandPage More than 1 year ago
Rating: 3 The Low Down: It’s the summer before junior year, and it isn’t going well. First, Alton Richards' girlfriend leaves him for his best friend. Then his mother insists that he hang out with his Great-Uncle Lester all summer. Lester is a master bridge player who, ever since he lost his sight, needs someone to read and play his cards for him during games and tournaments. Alton’s dad has recently lost his job, and Alton’s mom is hoping that her status as “favorite niece” will mean that Lester will be generous to them in his will. Very generous. At first, Alton doesn’t get bridge at all; but the longer he watches and listens, he starts to like it and look forward to helping Lester. He also starts to understand the Lester, the man,since he is more than just an ATM. Taciturn and reticent, he’s not into revealing himself to Alton or reveling in small talk. Eventually, however, through Uncle Lester’s friends and fellow bridge players, Alton is able to understand and appreciate his uncle and bridge. Best Thang ‘Bout It: Louis Sachar is an effortless writer, which couldn’t have been easy with all of the explanations of bridge and how to play, the terminology, etc. I appreciate his system of showing a symbol when he was going to write in detail about a bridge hand or play. That meant you could skip it and go to a box at the end of the explanation where a short explanation would be written. Clever. I’m Cranky Because: It was so boring. I felt like the actual storyline was so bogged down in the rudiments of bridge. If all the explanations of the game had been stripped away, it would have been a short story. I’ll admit I do remember having trouble getting into one of his previous books, Holes, but ended up loving it. I really thought this would happen again. To Read or Not To Read: It’s a well-written story, but I think it would be of interest to a specific type of person. I will leave that up to you to make that call. The Cardturner by Louis Sachar was published May 11, 2010 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers. Genre:Young Adult Fiction Contemporary Ages: 12 and  up
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
So good i'm SPEECHLESS
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved thi book and it truely amazing. Who would have know it would be this good. I picked it up because it talied about cards, yet it had a truely amazing story behind it.
SpartanReading More than 1 year ago
I would give The Cardturner by Louis Sachar 5 stars because the book was very interesting and held my attention until the very end. The story is about a 16 year old boy named Alton Richards. He and his friend Cliff don't hang out anymore because Cliff is with Alton's ex girlfriend, Katie, and Alton still has feelings for her. Alton has a Great Uncle Lester who is very rich, but very sick, he has diabetes and has gone blind. One day he calls Alton and asks Alton to be his cardturner at a bridge club that he plays at. Alton excepts and starts to learn the game and also learns more about his Great Uncle. Alton's father suddenly loses his job and now his family needs money. Since Lester is very rich Alton's parents want him to get on his Uncle's good side so that when he dies he can leave them some money in his will. Can Alton become a good cardturner with his Uncle and become friends with him, while also turning cards over in his personal life? Read to find out. I would recommend this book to anyone because every has relationship and friend problems like Alton does and they would be able to relate to him. Also in the book it explains a little how to play the game bridge which could be fun for anyone interested.
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jarujav More than 1 year ago
I was expecting a lot out of this book, since I loved Holes and Small Steps. I think the book got TOO bogged down with bridge hands, although I do have a new appreciation for the card game. Didn't feel like the characters went very deep.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book taught me about the game bridge but the book itself is just a plain boring book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a great book. It has a good story line. Its about a kid and his uncle. His uncle has a sickness and is blind. The uncle plays bridge which is a card game. The kid is the uncles cardturner which means that the kid plays for the uncle and the uncle tells the kid what to do. The uncle gets really good at bridge and enters into a nation tournament. A the last minute he dies of his sickness. So his cardturner gos for him and his uncle tells him wht to do in the back of his mind. In the end the kid wins the tournament and celebrates. Overall its a great book. It also tells you how to play bradge too. I recomend this book to everyone.