Swear to Howdy

Swear to Howdy

4.7 30
by Wendelin Van Draanen

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A funny friendship turns serious in this haunting book about secrets, lies, and what it means to be a true friend.
“Rusty, I swear to howdy, if you tell a soul...”
Joey Banks is a walking adventure. He’s funny, daring, mischievous—and frequently in trouble. Or he would be if anyone found out about half the


A funny friendship turns serious in this haunting book about secrets, lies, and what it means to be a true friend.
“Rusty, I swear to howdy, if you tell a soul...”
Joey Banks is a walking adventure. He’s funny, daring, mischievous—and frequently in trouble. Or he would be if anyone found out about half the stuff he’s done. But Rusty Cooper knows how to keep a secret. And Joey’s the best friend he’s ever had. But then comes a secret that is at once too terrible to tell and too terrible to keep. A secret so big it threatens to eat them alive. What would a true friend do now?
Wendelin Van Draanen has written a richly layered book that offers a thought-provoking look at the boundaries of friendship and what it really means to be true.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
"This trenchant tale introduces two best friends who are constantly making pacts," wrote PW. "The book's sympathetic protagonists, convincing colloquial dialogue and poignant conflicts will likely leave an impression on young readers. Ages 10-up. (Nov.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-Van Draanen couches valuable lessons in an odd mix of humor and angst in this unusual and disturbing book. When Russell meets Joey, he finds himself with an immediate and trouble-bound friend. In old-fashioned country-boy humor, the two get into a variety of scrapes including putting a frog into Joey's sister's underwear drawer and buying replacement fish to prevent Joey's drunken, abusive father from finding out the fish have died. Each time, they seal the pact of silence by cutting their fingers and mixing their blood (not a good idea). But when one stunt goes horribly wrong and Joey's sister dies, Russell has to decide whether to keep his pact or to tell what has happened. The story reads like a series of episodes rather than a cohesive whole, and time seems elastic, moving quickly and slowly in alternate bursts. Once the boys' prank results in tragedy, everything speeds up, rushing through months, and distancing readers, before coming to a somewhat inevitable conclusion. While the fully realized characters are certainly colorful, and the story is a quick read, the sharp turn from simple humor to the horror of guilt and death cause the book to lend itself more to group discussion than to general pleasure reading.-Amy Lilien-Harper, The Ferguson Library, Stamford, CT Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Triumph and tragedy mix in a compelling country tale of boys being boys. According to Rusty, next-door-neighbor Joey knows "how to have more fun with mud than most folks have with store-bought stuff." Joey's judgment isn't always good however. Sure, planting bugs in their older sisters' sodas, or a huge frog with notably loose bowels in one's underwear drawer leads to laughs galore, but skinny-dipping where a hungry crappie can attach itself to his privates or inadvertently shooting his abusive father's beloved mouser can get downright dangerous without quick action and mighty oaths of secrecy. Then a prank turns deadly, and those promises acquire a terrible weight. Readers expecting a knee-slapper along the lines of Gary Paulsen's Harris and Me (1993) won't be disappointed in the early going, but are likely to be thrown for a loop by the tale's unexpected swerve. Rusty and Joey are both profoundly changed by their shared experiences, and though one's attempted suicide leads to the other's confession and a long estrangement, in the end their deep friendship endures. A change of place, but not pace, for the author of the Sammy Keyes dramas. (Fiction. 10-12)
From the Publisher
“Van Draanen deftly hooks readers with her very first sentence and keeps their attention with a series of hilarious stunts right up to the shocking climax. A deceptively simple narrative, funny at the outset but realistic in its consideration of some very serious issues.”—Booklist, Starred Review
“Triumph and tragedy mix in a compelling country tale of boys being boys.”—Kirkus Reviews
“A poignant, thought-provoking novel that will strike a chord with young readers hooked by the boyish antics of the early chapters, later to be emotionally drawn to the honest portrayal of characters struggling with the consequences that follow every action.”—Midwest Book Review

From the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
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Random House
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File size:
4 MB
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

Read an Excerpt


Crappies Bite

Joey's blood got mixed up in mine the same way mine got mixed up in his. Drop by drop. Pact by pact. And there's times that makes me feel good, but there's times it creeps me out. Reminds me.

Seems like Joey and me were always making pacts. Lots of pacts, leading up to that last one. "Rusty," he'd say to me. "I swear to howdy, if you tell a soul . . ."

"I won't!" I'd tell him. "I swear!" Then he'd put out his fist and we'd go through the ritual, hammering fists and punching knuckles. And after we'd nicked fingers and mixed blood he'd heave a sigh and say, "You're a true friend, Rusty-boy," and that'd be that. Another secret, sealed for life.

Joey's family moved to Lost River two years before we did, so Pickett Lane was his turf, and that was just fine by me. Especially since he was so cool about it the summer we came to live next door. "Russell Cooper?" he'd asked me, and I'd thought, Oh man. Here we go again. Cooper-pooper. Pooper-scooper. I get the same old thing, everywhere I go.

But then he grinned at me the way only Joey Banks could grin, with one side of his face looped way up, and teeth showing everywhere. He nodded. "Rusty. That's what we'll call ya."


"Don't stand there looking at me like a load of bricks, boy. You ain't never gonna survive around here with a name like Russell."

I must have been blinking but good, 'cause he slapped me across the face, whap-whap. Not hard or anything. Just playful-like. Then he waved me along, saying, "C'mon, Rusty. I'll show you around."

He tore down to the river, and I tore right after him. "This here's my hole," he said when we got to a side pool with tree branches hanging over it and rocks nearly clear around. "And nobody else better get caught swimmin' in it." He gave me that loopy grin again. "Nobody but me and you."

I almost said, "Me?" 'cause I couldn't believe my ears. It was the coolest pool I'd ever seen. There was a thick rope for swinging, and the rocks were flat and great for sunning. Not the kind of place that's easy to share. 'Specially with a stranger.

But I bit my tongue and filled my pocket with rocks like he was doing, then scrambled up the tree behind him. And when we were perched nice and steady, he started skipping rocks across the river, saying, "Let's see your arm, Rusty. How far can you hurl?"

Not as far as him, that's for sure. Especially since I had the wobbles, way up in that tree. But I chucked them as good as I could, and every time one plopped in the water, Joey'd say, "Nice one, Rusty! You're gettin' it!" Then he'd chuck one of his own nearly clear to the other shore.

When we were out of rocks, he started snapping off sticks. "Here, Rusty. Do like this," he told me, peeling leaves off. "Then shoot it in like . . ." He let it fly like a dart. "Watch it now . . . crappies pop up and snag 'em sometimes."

"Crappies do? You get 'em out here?"

He laughed. "Yep. Dad says they're lost, and I don't doubt it. Dumbest fish known to man. You can catch 'em with your thumb--if you got the nerve."

"You done that?" I asked him.

Snap went another twig, and he shot it in. "More'n once." He eyed me. "Hurts like hell." We watched the twig land and sail downstream. "They're good eatin', though. Man, they're tasty."

But the crappies weren't biting. Not at twigs, anyway. So after a spell Joey said, "Up for a swim, Rusty?"

"Now?" It was getting dark. Cooling off quick.

"Any time's good," he laughed. "Water's always just right."

He yanked off his shirt and his shoes and flung them down to shore. Then came the socks, fling, fling. And with a little scoot forward he grabbed the rope and said, "It's a blast, Rust, trust me."

"You goin' in like that?" I asked, looking at his jeans.

"I ain't gonna drown, if that's what you're worried about." He pulled up the rope, then backed along his branch, getting ready. "And I ain't gettin' down to my skivvies in front of you." He pushed off and swung out over the water, hollerin', "We only just met!"

Mama and Dad were none too pleased to see me soaked to the gills when I got home. And Sissy told me I looked like a drowned muskrat, then went back to painting her toes. But I ate like a horse and yapped like a terrier through supper, and everyone was surprised 'cause Mama claims I'm given to "quiet brooding."

So the next day, they let me go again. And the next, too. And the day after that. And before long Joey and me were swinging doubles and bombing each other in the pool, wearing nothing but skivvies and big fat grins.

We'd catch frogs and launch them into the river, too. Joey'd call, "Come 'n' get it!" to the crappies, but pretty much the frogs would just swim for a bit with their legs all sprawled, then go under on their own. And maybe it doesn't seem too exciting, doing this stuff day after day, but I had more fun in that single summer than I'd had in my entire life combined.

From the Hardcover edition.

Meet the Author

Wendelin Van Draanen’s hobbies include the “three Rs”: reading, running, and rock ’n’ roll.

From the Hardcover edition.

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4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 30 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was really good! It was really funny and it was very suspending. Everytime I had to stop reading I couldnt help but wonder what would happen next. Read it:)
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book, Swear to Howdy by: Wendelin Van Draanen is a really good read for everyone. It made look like a child¿s book and an easy read, but it is really a great book worth reading. It is about to boys who live next door and become best friends. When ever they do something wrong they swear to howdy and smash their fists together. They have many adventures, which no one ends up knowing about until their last adventure where something goes horribly wrong. The author was very descriptive and made me want to keep reading more. The ending of this book was not the best. It doesn¿t tell about the families feeling about each other witch makes it sound unfinished. But other then the end, the story is very well written and descriptive. I loved it and I recommend it to every one who can enjoy a good book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I got this book for my 10-year-old son...it is hard to find books that will interest him...so many seem to be geared for girls. This book has moments of hilarity and surprising tragedy. Each chapter demands that the next be read. While ostensibly about the boys' friendship, it also deals with impulsive acts, abusive parents, cheating, lying, death, suicide and ultimately love and opens the door for parents to engage their children in discussions about these topics. I would have to list this book as a top ten for 5th to 9th grade. It should be on every reading list!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is definitely a must read! Some people might think it's not appropriate for young children, and I've even heard some say that it is a 'boyish' book. But, I enjoyed it so much, and I am a 14 year old girl!! I think it shows what true friendship is all about. Many people have lost sight of that, but this book makes it a reality! No matter what those two boys do, you can tell they have a unbreakable bond!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is sad yet happy too,it is a very intense novel. ¿Swear to Howdy¿ has two main characters, Joey and Russell. Throughout the novel it tells about all the secrets and daring stunts they do. It is called ¿Swear to Howdy¿ because every time Joey and Russell commit to keeping a secret one of the two boys says, ¿you swear to howdy you want tell.¿ Then they punch fists and swap blood. They are obviously best friends other wise they wouldn¿t do the stuff they do. Together they kill squirrels and cats, catch toad, go plinking at cans, and get in terrible situations. Russell is new in tow, so Joey gives him the nick name, Rusty-boy. Russell has a little sister named Rhonda. Joey has two sisters named Amanda Jane and Sissy. Joey¿s dad is nice or can be blowin¿ up mean. But Russell and Joey get through life together. I recommend this book to boys, girls, and people of all ages. I love this book and I hope I will read it again some other time.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Swear to Howdy Swear to howdy is a novel by Wendelin Van Draanen and it is about two boys named Joey and Rusty. When rusty moves to a small town from the city he meets his neighbor Joey. Joey and him become instant friends and they run around in the woods behind there houses. They do all kinds of pranks on there sisters and other people. One night Joey got an idea, he wants to make a ghost and hang it from a tree next to the old bridge over the river. They planed to scare drivers as they drove over the bridge. One or two cars passed, and then the third one came. Since the other cars didn¿t even see the ghost they decide to lower it. As the third car drove by the ghost hit its windshield and sent the car swerving off. The book is a great read for both boys and girls looking for a fun adventure by book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book aloud to my 7th and 8th grade classes. What great discussion it fosters! The author sets you up for a huge twist--unbelievable!!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was so good!! I read it like in 2 days!! Its about real friendship and how no matter how bad things get if you have a real best friend they will be there for you!! You should read it if you havent!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
this is a great book i never put it down. its crazy in wild, even thow im in 8th grade and it might be reconized to be for a child. its cool and intesnce. this book keeps u guessing and guessing. maybe if u guess u might be rite but most likely it will suprise u and what u thought is totally rong? U HAVE TO READ THIS Book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It is gross and funny at the same time!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Its funny but not well written like flipped but they tried XD hey kind of failed
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book before a bought it on my nook swapping fish lmfao
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
We read this book in class and it was funny amazing and sad... it was sd becuz joeys sister died:,(
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I wonder how his "d" feels after getting bit by that croppy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good book even when the crop fish bits the ##&**#
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of the best books i have read Ending is great Kinda sad but awesome!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is a fantastic book. It is very funny but can be sad in some parts.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I had so much reading this, I had so much fun reading this. This book is awesome! SQISHY TOMATOEs
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Should i read this?????