Children's Literature - Melissa J. RickeyIn this modern fairytale, young Brendan O'Donnell is playing ball in a field near his home. Up rides Old Gray Norris, who has "a face as long as the head of a spade, and a body the length of a boat." The old man challenges Brendan to a contest, called "Winner Takes All!" They toss the ball back and forth, until one of Brandon's throws goes so high that the sun blinds Old Gray Norris' eyes and he drops the ball. Norris throws a bag of coins at Brandon's feet but admonishes the boy that he will win in the end and ultimately "take all." When Brandon comes home with the bag full of gold coins, his grandmother takes to her bed, knowing that no one ever beats Long Gray Norris, and that the ultimate cost of losing a contest to him is one's life. Over the next days, Brendan engages in two more contests with the old man, each more difficult than the other. When Brendan loses a third time, the ruthless Norris claims himself "winner who takes all." Norris carries Brendan far away to his house and imprisons him in a barn and gives him three impossible tasks to perform if he wants to live. Brendan's quest to save his own life takes him on a journey where he meets and makes new friends who show him how to use his own resources and the help of others to outwit Norris. Written as a resource for guided reading, the patterned language, repetitive phrasing, and cartoonlike illustrations support intermediate readers' comprehension throughout the text, and allusions to well-known fairy tales bring this short chapter book to a satisfying end.
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