Saturday Night Dirt

Saturday Night Dirt

4.0 2
by Will Weaver

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It's a sizzling summer Saturday, and Headwaters Speedway is suddenly the place to be. Thanks to rainouts across the state, this small-town dirt track is drawing big-time stock cars and local drivers. First up: Trace Bonham in his Street Stock Chevy that's sure to be a winner, if only he can figure out why it's acting up. Next is Beau Kim: his Modified is


It's a sizzling summer Saturday, and Headwaters Speedway is suddenly the place to be. Thanks to rainouts across the state, this small-town dirt track is drawing big-time stock cars and local drivers. First up: Trace Bonham in his Street Stock Chevy that's sure to be a winner, if only he can figure out why it's acting up. Next is Beau Kim: his Modified is patched together from whatever parts he could scrape up. And on the outside, moving in fast: Amber Jenkins, a strawberry blonde who has what it takes to run rings around them all. Keeping everyone on track is Melody Walters: she knows that the impending rain might be exactly what they need to keep her father's speedway afloat—or sink it for good.

Saturday Night Dirt is a 2009 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“For rugged reality, pick up Saturday Night Dirt by Will Weaver, a high-energy story about cars and small-town racing.” —Parade

“If you have a young car-racing fan in your family, this book is the perfect summer reading choice: It's a face-paced story about a struggling speedway in northern Michigan and features a great cast of characters, all car-obsessed teens. Great for boys and girls.” —Good Morning America

“Thoroughly enjoyable . . . this book presents a fascinating look at small-time racing where the love of it gives the glitz of NASCAR its roots.” —School Library Journal

“Compelling . . . It is the atmosphere of the track that is the real star here. Young racing fans, particularly those familiar with the small tracks that dot rural parts of the country, will find much that rings true.” —Booklist

“Librarians need to steer boys who tinker with internal combustion engines to Weaver's latest work. Short chapters and a brisk pace . . . may attract those reluctant readers who can recite the firing order of a V-8 and know how to tighten down a valve cover.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Weaver fleshes each [character] out enough to leave a lasting impression on readers and make them curious to know what happens next.” —Publishers Weekly

“The racing lingo moves the story along, while the reader's interest remains piqued wondering how all the characters will fit together, who will end up with whom, and who will win their heart's desire. This book is a winner in a sports event rarely dealt with by young adult authors.” —VOYA

“I was pleasantly surprised when I began reading Saturday Night Dirt. I was completely absorbed. I really felt like I could identify with the characters. I read the book in one day. It was impossible to put down.” —Ben, 17

“The book Saturday Night Dirt has been one of the best books I've read.” —Hannah, 13

“I loved the book Saturday Night Dirt. Anyone who reads this book will change the way they look at dirt tracks forever.” —Bethany, 13

Saturday Night Dirt is a great book. I have never been a big racing fan, but even so, this was an awesome book. I can't wait for the next one.” —Kyle, 14

Publishers Weekly

Weaver (Defect; Full Service) launches his Motor series with this fast-paced introduction to the rough-and-tumble world of car racing. Headwaters Speedway in northern Minnesota is a struggling track desperate for some big-name racers to draw in fans and revenue. One Saturday night, when rainstorms force cancellations at other tracks throughout the state, owner Johnny Walters, a former racer left paralyzed after a severe crash, and his 17-year-old daughter, Melody, get a bigger crowd than they ever imagined. Weaver entertains readers with a motley cast: Maurice Battier, the track's fastidious flagman; Beau Kim, 16, the tai chi-loving Mod-Four racer; and Sonny Down Wind, who refuses all sponsorship offers. At times the language gets mired in hardcore automotive lingo: "He was cranking over the engine to find top dead center, or TDC, valve position." And with 10 characters introduced in the first 50 pages, it's initially difficult to keep them straight. But in limited space, Weaver fleshes each one out enough to leave a lasting impression on readers and make them curious to know what happens next. Ages 12-up. (Apr.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
AGERANGE: Ages 12 to 18.

On a hot summer Saturday in northern Minnesota, the lives of local teens and adults converge at Headwaters Speedway, a rundown dirt-track raceway. Trace is a promising young stock car driver who suspects his mechanic is trying to sabotage his car. Beau Kim has assembled his car from scavenged spare parts: will it hold together or fly apart? Two other talented drivers, a young woman named Amber and a Native American named Sonny, face challenges, too, while the teenaged track manager, Melody (Mel), tries to keep everything working as smoothly as possible, even though she must rely on a ragtag group of volunteers and a threatening rainstorm is on the horizon. Each brief chapter is told from a different point of view. Weaver, the author of Full Service and other well regarded YA novels, is a race-car owner himself, and he clearly knows the milieu. With lots of racing action and off-track intrigue to build suspense, this first novel in a projected series holds lots of appeal for motorheads and race fans as well as reluctant readers. Reviewer: Paula Rohrlick
March 2008 (Vol. 42, No.2)

Children's Literature - Heather Christensen
The excitement and drama of dirt track racing comes to life in this intense novel by Will Weaver. The action of the book takes place in just nine hours, from noon till nine o'clock pm on race day and is told in alternating viewpoints through the eyes of seven teens and three adults. All are involved in different aspects of the race—seventeen-year-old Mel manages the track for her father; seventeen-year-old Trace, sixteen-year-old Beau, and eighteen-year-old Amber all race cars; seventeen-year-old Patrick sings the national anthem and helps with odd jobs around the track; and fifteen-year-old Tudy helps her parents with their barbeque wagon—but they share a love of racing. Weaver elevates the weather to character status by including it in each section of narrative viewpoints. And indeed the weather does play a pivotal role in the story—rainouts across the state send cars to Mel and her father's small track, and much of the tension in the story is over how the weather will interfere with the night's race. Weaver uses enough mechanics and racing lingo to create authenticity yet never so much to cause boredom or confusion for someone who does not know the difference between a carburetor and a crankshaft. Racing fans will zip through this fast-paced book. Reviewer: Heather Christensen
School Library Journal

Gr 8 Up- This thoroughly enjoyable sports novel is set in rural Minnesota and centers on a quarter-mile dirt racetrack struggling for economic survival. The plot plays out over the course of one Saturday, culminating in that evening's racing. The story is divided into four chapters-Noon, 3:00, 6:00, and 9:00 PM-and within each one, various characters are introduced. The cast, composed of both genders and multiple ethnicities in a variety of racing roles, includes young drivers starting their careers, older drivers hanging on for the love of the sport, the track owners and their employees, the mechanics, and snack-food vendors. As bad weather threatens, the track draws star drivers from out of town in an effort to boost the gate, with the event concluding just as the storm arrives. Throughout, the author keeps readers' interest, as curiosity grows about how the many characters will eventually fit together. Racing terminology is used accurately, and the scenes are plausible, although the positive outcome of almost every problem seems too good to be true. Still, this book presents a fascinating look at small-time racing where the love of it gives the glitz of NASCAR its roots.-Jeffrey A. French, formerly at Willoughby-Eastlake Public Library, Willowick, OH

Kirkus Reviews
Librarians need to steer boys who tinker with internal combustion engines to Weaver's latest work, set at the Headwaters Speedway, a dirt racetrack located in Northern Minnesota. The large cast of blue-collar characters doesn't get blisters from video-game controllers but happily accepts skinned knuckles from cranking on torque wrenches. Teenagers Trace Bonham, Melody (Mel) Walters and Beau Kim get their thrills from competitive racing at the decaying track, but they have run into problems: Trace finds that his mechanic has sabotaged his engine, Mel struggles to keep her injured father's track financially solvent and Beau works to keep his rolling wreck running. A major storm compounds these difficulties by threatening to wash out the big race. Although several race scenes are exciting, minute and potentially boring mechanical details too often interrupt the by-the-numbers plot. Short chapters and a brisk pace, however, may attract those reluctant readers who can recite the firing order of a V-8 and know how to tighten down a valve cover. (Fiction. YA)

Product Details

Square Fish
Publication date:
Motor Novels Series, #1
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.60(d)
780L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 18 Years

Read an Excerpt

A note from the author

At a recent young adult literature conference in Minneapolis, a high school teacher stood up to address a panel of authors on which I was speaking. “But where are the novels for kids who love cars and hate their English classes?” she asked. “I’ve got lots of boys in my school—and some girls, too—whose lives revolve around auto racing. They have their favorite NASCAR drivers, they go to races, some of them drive stock cars at the local dirt track. Cars and racing are their life. We need something for these kids to read!” The audience laughed, then clapped loudly. Afterward I spoke privately with the teacher. I told her about Saturday Night Dirt and my forthcoming Motor series from Farrar, Straus and Giroux. She actually hugged me. “My students are going to eat those books up!” she said. “I can’t wait for the next time one of them says, ‘There’s nothing for me to read.’”

Coming Spring 2009

Super Stock Rookie


Trace Bonham has left home for the chance of a lifetime: to race for a professional team. After a tough tryout, he wins his dream ride. But he has growing doubts about the team owner and his wife. Did they choose Trace for his driving ability, or to be a poster boy for a marketing campaign? And when Trace’s racing circuit brings him home to Headwaters Speedway, he’s treated like a star—until the green flag drops.

Meet the Author

Author of Red Earth, White Earth and A Gravestone Made of Wheat, Will Weaver grew up in northern Minnesota on a dairy farm. The sometimes harsh and beautiful landscape of farm and small town life figures strongly in his writing. Sweet Land, an independent feature film adaptation of his story "Gravestone Made of Wheat", and starring Ned Beatty, premiered in October of 2006.

Weaver is also known for his young adult fiction. His character Billy Baggs, a teenage farm boy baseball phenom, earned his way into the hearts of teen readers in the series Striking Out, Farm Team, and Hard Ball. Each novel has won numerous awards, including being named an ALA Best Book for Young Adults. Memory Boy, a post-apocalyptic novel based on environmental collapse, is used across the curriculum in many junior and senior high schools.

Claws, a novel set in northeastern Minnesota (Duluth and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness) features outdoor survival with a strong family back story. Weaver's Full Service won starred reviews (Kirkus Reviews and The Horn Book) for its focus on a young man struggling with matters of religious faith and doubt, all complicated by his first "real" summer job, at a gas station, where he "meets the public" in all its variety. Defect, a novel about a teenager born with a miraculous birth abnormality, highlights what one reviewer from The St. Paul Pioneer Press called "the humanity and decency that runs through all of Weaver's work.".

As an author, Mr. Weaver is particularly concerned with youth literacy and keeping kids reading. His new MOTOR series addresses a group of underserved young adult readers: kids who love cars. His new novel Saturday Night Dirt and its sequel, Super Stock Rookie, focus on dirt track stock car racing. The series starts with a close focus on a small town speedway and the cast of colorful characters who come there to race on Saturday nights. One of the characters, sixteen-year-old Trace Bonham, is a natural driver with dreams of racing professionally. The MOTOR series follows Trace's on his path toward getting a "ride" (a sponsored race car) and competing at the highest level he can. While these auto racing novels will certainly appeal to boys, Weaver's novels always contain a diverse cast of characters. Auto racing is one of the few sports that gives no gender advantage, and the MOTOR series also includes a positive and realistic portrayal of young women involved in racing.

Along with the MOTOR series of novels, Weaver has formed a stock car racing team with a teenaged driver. His black No. 16 Modified race car, co-sponsored by Farrar, Straus & Giroux publishers, is driven by Skyler Smith of Bemidji. Team Weaver races in the WISSOTA circuit in the upper Midwest.

An avid outdoorsman, Will Weaver lives with his wife on the Mississippi River in northern Minnesota.

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Saturday Night Dirt 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
It's not NASCAR or the Indy 500. It is small town, dirt track racing. There's dust in the air, and colorful characters racing their cars around the track. There's plenty of competition, an intense desire to win, and enough mystery and intrigue to keep even non-racing fans on the edge of their seats.

SATURDAY NIGHT DIRT is set at Headwaters Speedway in Minnesota. Mel Walters and her father, Johnny Walters, are struggling to keep their little race track in business. Johnny, once a driver himself, is now confined to a wheelchair after a tragic accident years ago. Mel's mother needed only a few short weeks to determine she couldn't stay married to a man in a wheelchair, so Mel and her dad have been on their own for quite some time.

Still in high school, Mel acts as track manager, and she is probably the sole reason for the track's continued success. The story begins and ends on one Saturday. Because of Mel's drive and determination, it's a Saturday that makes history for the track and just might breathe some new life into it.

Other members of the cast of characters include several young racers like Trace, Amber, and Beau hoping to make their mark in racing. There's Patrick, who handles parking and sings the national anthem before the night's racing begins. Maurice is a retired navy man who handles the signal flags like a pro. There are also the down-and-out racers like Sonny from the local reservation who lack the funds to really be taken seriously by the other competitors. Even the ever present threat of bad weather becomes a player in the non-stop action at the track. Each plays a part in the Saturday night excitement and helps make the story a real page-turner.

SATURDAY NIGHT DIRT is billed on the cover as "A Motor Novel." Hopefully, that means it is the first of many more. Weaver's book is especially excellent for reluctant guy readers, even if they don't have a special interest in the sport of dirt track racing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago