One Fat Summer

One Fat Summer

4.6 39
by Robert Lipsyte

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For Bobby Marks, summer does not equal fun.

While most people are happy to take off their heavy jackets and long pants, Bobby can't even button his jeans or reach over his belly to touch his toes. Spending the summer at Rumson Lake is sheer torture.

This particular summer promises to be worse than usual. His parents can't stop fighting. His best friend, Joanie,

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For Bobby Marks, summer does not equal fun.

While most people are happy to take off their heavy jackets and long pants, Bobby can't even button his jeans or reach over his belly to touch his toes. Spending the summer at Rumson Lake is sheer torture.

This particular summer promises to be worse than usual. His parents can't stop fighting. His best friend, Joanie, goes home to New York City and won't tell him why. Dr. Kahn, a rich, stingy estate owner who hires him to manage an enormous lawn, is working him to death. And to top it off, a local bully won't stop torturing him.

Bobby is about to find out just how terrifying and exhilarating one fat summer can be.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
This story of one boy's struggles in the summer of 1955 is a snapshot of 1950s culture. The boy must deal with low self-esteem and family relationships, in addition to racial prejudice. At age 14, Bobby weighs over 200 pounds. His best friend, Joanie, has a long crooked nose, and the two of them are very good at pretending that they do not hear the cutting remarks of their peers. Since Joanie has to be away for a large part of the summer, Bobby decides to get a job to keep him busy and to avoid the embarrassing swimming activities at day camp on Rumson Lake. While his lean, athletic father rides him about his weight and his mother coddles and protects him from everything, Bobbie dreams of being a writer. The book he is writing in his head will be called, The Secret Summer. His careful descriptions of his surroundings as he narrates the story reflect his talent: "The lawn spread out before him like a velvet green ocean it was so large." From the descriptions of his daydreams, his way of dealing with the extreme heat and exhaustion of the new job, to his real life encounters with bullies, this is a tale about being scared, doing the right thing, and doing something for oneself. Although his father shows confidence in Bobby's ability to lose weight, his father's anger over his mother's job outside the home is misdirected toward Bobby. He keeps his job a secret so that he doesn't have to hear his parents' constant worries. His older sister keeps his secret in exchange for his silence about her visits with her boyfriend. Bobby's perseverance in the face of continuous teasing by year-round roughnecks sets a good example for children striving to overcome feeling like a misfit. 1991 (orig.1977), HarperTrophy/HarperCollins, Ages 12 up.
—Rosemary A. Chase <%ISBN%>0064470733 <%ISBN%>0553143069 <%ISBN%>0553255916

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
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Product dimensions:
4.21(w) x 6.90(h) x 0.67(d)
670L (what's this?)
Age Range:
13 - 17 Years

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Chapter One

I always hated summertime. When people take off their clothes. In winter you can hide yourself. Long coats, heavy jackets, thick sweaters. Nobody can tell how fat you really are. But in the summertime they can see your thick legs and your wobbly backside and your big belly and your soft arms. And they laugh.

I never would have gone to the Rumson Lake Community Association Carnival on the Fourth of July if it hadn't been cool enough that night to wear a long-sleeved knit shirt outside my pants. At the start of that summer, my fourteenth, I couldn't button the waist of any of my pants without getting a stomachache. I weighed more than 200 pounds on July 4th. I don't know exactly how much more because I jumped off the bathroom scale when the number 200 rolled up. The numbers were still climbing past the pointer when I bailed out.

I was tall for my age and I had large, heavy bones, so I didnt look like a circus freak. Just like a very fat boy. When my pants weren't strangling my belly, and if there were no scales or mirrors around, I could forget for a while that I was fat. But sooner or later there'd be someone around to remind me. The wise guys started up as soon as we got to the carnival, at Marino's Beach Club and Snack Bar.

"Hey, it's the Crisco Kid," yelled one of the older teenagers hanging around the snack bar.

"Why do you call him the Crisco Kid?" It sounded like a comedy routine. I knew what was coming.

"Because he's fat in the can."

They all laughed. My face got hot, but I pretended I hadn't heard. Rule number one:never let people know they can get to you or they'll never stop trying. Joanie pretended she hadn't heard, either.

"Look at that girl he's with. The nose knows."

"She's the one who blew the wind in."

I felt embarrassed for Joanie. Someday I'd wake up thin, I believed that. But poor Joanie was stuck with that nose for her whole life. It was long and crooked. The rest of her face was pretty, but who ever looked at the rest of her face?

"Hey, let's go to the booths," she said. "I feel lucky, tonight." Joanie was a terrific pretender, too.

It was early, there was still light in the sky and the crowds hadn't arrived yet. Strings of colored bulbs danced in the breeze off the lake. The jukebox was playing "Little White Cloud That Cried."

"There's that dumb song again," I said.

"It's not so bad, when you're in the mood," said Joanie.

"I'm only in the mood when I've got an umbrella."

"That's a joke, son," said Joanie. "It was only funny the first twenty-seven times you said it."

"Then how come you never laughed?"

"Ha-ha. Okay?"

Then we both laughed.

I've known Joaniesince we were three years old. Our parents were best friends. In the city we lived in the same apartment house and we were always in the same classes in school. Somewhere there's a picture of us taking a bath together when we were four. It's cute. I wasn't so fat then, and her nose wasn't so huge. Joanie and I not only grew up together, we grew out together. That's my joke, but I've never told it to her.

A few years ago, when my parents bought a summer house on Rumson Lake, her parents bought one, too. And after that we were together summer and winter. She taught me to dance, but I never danced with anyone except her. We did our homework together. When her father took her mother on a business trip, Joanie stayed at my house.

Joanie and I talked about almost everything; she was a great talker, but only with me. Otherwise she was shy. The only things in the world we didn't talk about were her nose and my fat. When we were alone together I felt thin, and I think she felt pretty. I guess that's why we were such good friends.

"Step right up, ladies and gentlemen, the wheel of fortune is spinning, spinning, spinning. For one thin dime you can win a beautiful doll to call your own." It was Pete Marino himself, as usual dressed in nothing except a little bathing suit and a St. Christopher medal around his neck. He was pointing at us. "Now here's a couple of gamblers. Step right up, folks, you look lucky to me. "

"Let's go try the ringtoss," I said. Muscles like Pete Marino's gave me a stomachache. Cannonball muscles with big blue veins over them. I didn't have any muscles, and my veins were buried in fat.

Joanie slapped a dime on number fourteen.

"I thought six was your lucky number."

"Not anymore. My age is my lucky number now."

"Round and round it goes, where it stops nobody knows," chanted Pete Marino. He was waving his arms at the wheel and doing a little dance. He must have known how all the muscles on his back twitched and jumped under his smooth bronze skin.

"He's not conceited," I said. "He's convinced."

"C'mon, he's very nice," said Joanie. But then she looked at me. "He's not as smart as you, though."

"The wheel is slowing down, soon we'll have a winner. Who's it gonna be?" He turned around, grinning. He had big white teeth, like Chiclets, and curly golden hair. He looked like a movie star. "Who'll be the lucky one?"

One Fat Summer. Copyright © by Robert Lipsyte. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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Meet the Author

Robert Lipsyte was an award-winning sportswriter for the New York Times and the Emmy-winning host of the nightly public affairs show The Eleventh Hour. He is the author of twelve acclaimed novels for young adults and is the recipient of the Margaret A. Edwards Award honoring his lifetime contribution in that genre. He lives in Manhattan and on Shelter Island, New York, with his wife, Lois, and his dog, Milo.

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