The Glass Cafe: Or the Stripper and the State: How My Mother Started a War with the System That Made Us Kind of Rich and a Little Bit Famous

The Glass Cafe: Or the Stripper and the State: How My Mother Started a War with the System That Made Us Kind of Rich and a Little Bit Famous

4.4 5
by Gary Paulsen, Todd Haberkorn

View All Available Formats & Editions

The story is all true and happened to me and is mine.

Tony’s mom, Al, is a terrific single mother who works as a dancer at the Kitty Kat Club. Twelve-year-old Tony is a budding artist, inspired by backstage life at the club. When some of his drawings end up in an art show and catch the attention of the social services agency, Al and Tony find themselves in the


The story is all true and happened to me and is mine.

Tony’s mom, Al, is a terrific single mother who works as a dancer at the Kitty Kat Club. Twelve-year-old Tony is a budding artist, inspired by backstage life at the club. When some of his drawings end up in an art show and catch the attention of the social services agency, Al and Tony find themselves in the middle of a legal wrangle and a media circus. Is Al a responsible mother? It’s the case of the stripper vs. the state, and Al isn’t giving Tony up without a fight.

Once again Gary Paulsen proved why he’s one of America’s most beloved writers. The Glass Café is a fresh and funny exploration of motherhood, art and the wiles of storytelling – all told by Tony, in his own true voice.

Editorial Reviews

The Washington Post
Alternatively titled The Stripper and the State: How My Mother Started a War with the System That Made Us Rich and a Little Bit Famous, this sweet, funny book is a change of pace for Paulsen, whom most readers revere for his stark novels of the Canadian wilderness and other endurance-testing places and situations. — Elizabeth Ward
Publishers Weekly
In one of his minor efforts, the prolific Paulsen serves up a righteous, pro-free-speech theme accompanied by big helpings of over-the-top plot lines. Twelve-year-old Tony, in whose disingenuously na ve voice the story is told, lives with his single mom, Al, a stripper with a heart of gold who hopes to finance a Ph.D. in literature. In art class at school, Tony discovers a talent for drawing, and almost overnight he produces an extraordinarily nuanced set of life drawings, using his mother's barely clothed co-workers as models. When his enraptured art teacher enters his work in a show, someone reports Al to the state as an unfit mother (for encouraging her son "to draw pornographic pictures"). Enter a policeman and a thick-headed social worker, and before readers can say SWAT team, the action escalates to a conflagration worthy of national news coverage. Besides the exaggerated events, Paulsen looks to the endless run-on sentences and artless grammar of Tony's delivery for humor ("So you know my name is Tony and I am twelve and my mother who is named Alice except nobody calls her that, they all call her Al, like she was a guy only she isn't, is a stripper, only it's called exotic dancing, at a club called the Kitty Kat, except that everybody calls it the Zoo," reads the first half of the first sentence). Readers who like this style of writing can rest easy: Paulsen maintains that style all the way to the end. Ages 10-up. (June) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Paulsen does it again. The man crafts some of the most interesting tales in the business. His name is synonymous with "must-read" in the young adult genre, mostly because of his tour de force Hatchet (Bradbury, 1987/VOYA February 1988). One cannot go two steps without running into someone who read it in middle school, and although Paulsen's other books are similarly unique, they have not exactly achieved the same level of readership as his boy-lost-in-the-woods story. This novel will probably be no different, alas, although there might be an increase in attention based on the subject matter. Tony lives with his mother, Alice (Al), who is an exotic dancer at a club called the Kitty Kat. Discussion of her occupation is quite matter-of-fact in their household until Tony, without the premise of titillation and with permission, sketches some of Al's fellow strippers in the club dressing room for an art project, and his art teacher calls authorities upon seeing the finished work. When they arrive, things do not go so well, and Tony faces the prospect of life without his mother. It is a great idea for a plot, and Paulsen follows it through justly, if a bit quickly for this reader's liking. The book falls somewhere between having just the right amount of depth and not quite enough. It is a quick read that works because it is not a chore to go through, but the reader feels as though the story takes a bow too early, is yanked away before the reader is ready to see it go. VOYA CODES: 4Q 3P M J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2003,Wendy Lamb Books/Random House, 112p,
— Matthew Weaver <%ISBN%>0385324995
Tony lives happily with his mother Al, a devoted single parent who would like to be working on her doctorate in English literature but meanwhile makes a living as a "provocative dancer" at the Kitty Kat Club. Twelve-year-old Tony is studying figure drawing in art class, and he asks to draw the girls in the dressing room at the club. His mother and the strippers agree, and his drawings win his art teacher's admiration. She submits them in a competition at a local art museum, but there they attract the wrong kind of attention—a juvenile welfare caseworker and a policeman show up at Tony and Al's door, questioning whether Al is a fit mother. Comical mishaps and misunderstandings lead to quite a commotion, and Tony and Al end up arrested. In court, however, Al articulately defends how she makes a living. A further commotion in the courtroom results in a settlement for Al and enough money for her to quit dancing and resume studying. This brief tale (more of a short story, really) is something of a departure for Paulsen, best known for survival stories like Hatchet—though this could be seen as Al's survival account, in a way, and she explains how her dancing is a way of telling a story. Paulsen explains in a note to the reader that he based this on the true story of a mother and son he met. Readers will enjoy this funny tale—which is not racy at all—related in a breathless manner by Tony in long, run-on sentences. A good choice for reluctant readers. KLIATT Codes: J—Recommended for junior high school students. 2003, Random House, Wendy Lamb Books, 112p.,
— Paula Rohrlick
Children's Literature
Twelve-year old Tony, a charming and garrulous narrator, recounts an important event that changed his and his mother's life. Al, as Tony's mother likes to be called, works as a dancer at the Kitty Kat Club in order to support her son and put herself through graduate school. After Tony's art teacher tells his class that all the great artists spent time studying and painting the human figure, Tony studies the backstage life of the dancers at his mother's club. His art teacher is so taken with his drawings that she enters them in a competition at an art museum. The drawings get the attention of a social worker and Al's mothering skills are questioned and tried in a court case that garners a lot of media attention. While in court, Al relates her dancing to the techniques of Lebanese storytellers in the Glass Café. These storytellers knew just when to hesitate to leave their readers wanting more, and that is what Paulsen, by way of Tony's narration, does here. Bits of the ending are revealed early on, yet interest isn't lost because there is more you want to know about these characters. This book is very fast-paced—too fast at times—and may be too edgy for more conservative readers. 2003, Wendy Lamb Books/Random House, Ages 10 up.
— Jennifer Chambliss
School Library Journal
Gr 6-9-One day, 12-year-old Tony decides to embrace art by studying the human figure. In an innocent and purely artistic gesture, he gets permission to draw the women who work with his single mother, a dancer at the Kitty Kat Club. His art teacher is so impressed with his pictures that she enters them in an art show. Social services is equally impressed with a complaint about a minor drawing pornography, causing the state's juvenile caseworker to show up at Tony's apartment with an armed police officer. In short order, chaos reigns, leaving readers with one heck of a funny book. Through his energetic and witty stream-of-consciousness style, Paulsen establishes Tony as the true preteen hero, one with worries and triumphs and adult support. His mother, Al, is every kid's dream mom-an authority figure who treats her son as an intellectual equal while still offering that safe place in which to grow up. Through it all, Paulsen gives a fresh voice to some tough questions. Tony and his story have something to offer to pretty much everybody.-Linda Bindner, Truman State University, Kirksville, MO Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Long, breathless sentences like this one create a distinct voice for the 12-year-old narrator of this light comedy that features a supermom who's raising a child and working her way toward graduate school as an exotic dancer at the Kitty Kat Club. It all hits the fan when Tony's sketches of some of the girls in the club's dressing room end up on exhibit at the local museum. Down swoops a panicky child-welfare worker, police officer in tow-both of whom meet their match in Tony's intelligent, forthright, fiercely protective mother, Al. The confrontation quickly degenerates into a wild ruckus, followed by a media circus, a courtroom scene, and a telescoped resolution involving both a large cash settlement and a possible hookup between Al and Tony's over-the-top drama teacher. Not too likely, but all good fun, and Paulsen claims that Al is based on an actual acquaintance. Introduce reluctant readers, Paulsen fans, or anyone who enjoys an occasional belly laugh to this prototypical preteen and his most memorable mom. (Fiction. 9-11)

Product Details

Brilliance Audio
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 6.40(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range:
12 - 14 Years

Read an Excerpt


So you know my name is Tony and I am twelve and my mother who is named Alice except nobody calls her that, they all call her Al, like she was a guy only she isn’t, is a stripper, only it’s called exotic dancing, at a club called the Kitty Kat, except that everybody calls it the Zoo on account of an animal act they used to have but don’t anymore because the humane society said it was wrong to use snakes out of their “natural element” although Muriel, who danced with a seven-foot boa named Steve, swore that the snake slept through the whole dance except I know Steve who lives in the dressing room in a glass case and I can’t tell if he’s sleeping or not because he never closes his eyes.

This is what I like.

I like double bacon cheeseburgers and vanilla shakes.

I like school where I get pretty good grades in everything except gym and sometimes math when it doesn’t make any sense to me like when we have to figure out two trains traveling at different speeds and which one will get to a place called Parkerville first. There is never a place called Parkerville in real life and hardly any trains go anywhere anymore and why would two trains be trying to get to place called Parkerville in the first place? It’s just silly.

I like Melissa Davidson who is twelve and has short hair and sparks and crackles when she gets mad. A lot. I mean I like her a lot.

I like art and always carry a sketch pad and a couple of soft pencils and draw every chance I get, which is really how the trouble started but I’ll talk more about that later after I do what Ms. Providge the English teacher calls “developing the structure and character” of the story. This story. This story about my life.

I like dogs except that I’m not supposed to have one because the apartment we live in won’t allow pets which doesn’t seem right because they allow a biker and his woman to live there and a dog is a lot cleaner than a biker. Or at least this biker, who is named Short Man and is so dumb he tried to drink gasoline one day just because it was in a beer bottle and he spit it out on a lit barbecue grill and there were barbecued chicken parts all over the apartment compound and I heard he didn’t have a hair left on his head. I know plenty of dogs smarter than that. So I keep trying on the dog thing, doing what Al calls pushing the envelope by bringing them to visit sometimes. Or to be honest every chance I get.

I like Corvettes. I know it’s not cool to like them as much as foreign cars but I read the car magazines in the drugstore owned by Foo Won on the corner when he doesn’t catch me. Corvettes, it said in one article I read, are a Greatly Underestimated Force to be Reckoned with in the Muscle Car Arena. Of course I don’t have a Corvette but Al said if I want one bad enough and work hard enough I can have one someday when I’m old enough to drive. I would like to have a good car for the muscle car arena.

I like baseball and my favorite team changes some because it started with the Braves and then went to the Padres and then the Yankees and now I’m back to the Braves but I’m definitely leaning back toward the Padres.

I do not like skateboards, or I should say I guess I like them but I don’t skateboard anymore because I tried it once without a helmet and hit the concrete so hard I saw flashes of color from one Wednesday to Friday in the next week. I didn’t dare to tell Al because she would have taken me to the doctor which she does even if I’m a little sick and not seeing flashes of colors in my head.

I like bicycling. I have an old clunker Schwinn five-speed that looks so bad nobody will steal it except that I took it all apart and the bearings and all the internal parts are slick and new.

I like Coke, not the kind you snort up your nose like Magdalene did until Al got her into treatment and she has two years and two months straight now but the kind you drink from a bottle and I put peanuts in the bottle and drink the Coke and eat the peanuts.

I like Fiji. That’s an island country in the South Pacific and I read all about it in a travel magazine at Foo Won’s store. I’ll go there someday when I am (a) an adult, (b) successful and (c) have a Corvette and maybe (d) married to Melissa which is all part of the list I have for my Life Plan. I don’t want to live in Fiji but just visit there after I am certified on scuba gear and can dive, because the diving is supposed to be absolutely stellar there according to the magazine although I always thought stellar meant something to do with the stars.

I do not like television but I used to like TV until Al said it was sucking the brain out of me and hit the set in just the right place to kill it with a small hammer we use to unstick the kitchen window when it’s hot and we want it open because the air conditioner only cools the living room and doesn’t blow into the kitchen and now it doesn’t work. The TV I mean. It hisses and pops but there’s no picture or sound. Then Al made me go with her to the library and I got dozens of books even though I didn’t read much then but do now and twice a week we have literary discussion evenings about books we have both read that week. We never had television discussion evenings twice a week when I watched TV and now I don’t like it anymore. TV I mean. And I don’t watch it at all even when I’m visiting Waylon who is my best outside friend and who is twelve and who has television and is maybe even a tube head and also does not have television or literary discussion evenings twice a week in his home. I think mostly because Waylon says his folks both work hard and are never really home. But Al works hard too, and is home almost all the time when she isn’t working.

Meet the Author

Three-time Newbery-winning author Gary Paulsen, hailed as "one of the best-loved writers alive" by the New York Times, divides his time between his ranch in New Mexico, a sailboat on the Pacific Ocean, and his dog-kennel in Alaska. He's written over 200 books for young people, stories that have been embraced by readers of all ages.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

The Glass Cafe: Or the Stripper and the State: How My Mother Started a War with the System That Made Us Kind of Rich and a Little Bit Famous 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
O just want tp get it its on my wishlist lololololololplololololololololoolol.o
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You can learn about what is in it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Glass Cafe is a book where a young boy named Anthony. His mom is a stripper. Her name is Alice, but most people call her Al. She is a single parent who has to who has to be an exotic dancer to support her family. She would like to be an English teacher, but can't afford the schooling. Anthony the main character and the person who also tells the story is very into art. He goes to school one day and has art class. His teacher shows the class multiple forms of art most of them are almost naked women. Then he asks his teacher why most of the paintings are of women. He then started to take an interest in painting women, but he did not have a model to paint. He asked his mom if he could go to the club in the dressing room and paint the women. He then takes it to school and shows his art teacher. She takes them and submits them. They are put on display. Then a child protectant agency saw the paintings and leared that a child painted them. They found out where he lived and went to talk to him and his mother. They kept touching Anthony and Al freaked out on the cop that was touching Anthony. She hit him with a lamp and he was knocked unconscious. The lady that came to talk to them went and called for backup. The backup that came did not go to the right apartment though. They went to there neighbors apartment who is a motorcycle rider who has been in trouble previously. Anthony and his mom go outside to watch all the police cars come to the apartments when the police discover that they are going after the wrong person. They then go get them and go to court. By : Lucas Bahr
blondyAJ More than 1 year ago
if you like a book that keep you on your feet then this is a book for you. At first the book starts out slow but gets better after the first 4 chapterds. I would like to worn you that Tony one of the main people in the book likes to talk a lot. Sometimes we will talk for a hole chapter about randum stuff. Still over all i thought this was a great book; its also a easy book to read it goes by fast!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I had to choose two books for reports over the summer and The Glass Cafe was one of them. Even though I am only on chapter 4 I am really into this book. I would recomend it to people of ages 12 and up because of some words and things used through out this book.