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The Collected Works of Gretchen Oyster
Cover of The Collected Works of Gretchen Oyster
The Collected Works of Gretchen Oyster
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Who is Gretchen Oyster? The discovery of a series of mysterious handmade postcards distracts Hartley from trouble at home. A poignant novel for fans of Rebecca Stead and Holly Goldberg Sloan.Hartley...
Who is Gretchen Oyster? The discovery of a series of mysterious handmade postcards distracts Hartley from trouble at home. A poignant novel for fans of Rebecca Stead and Holly Goldberg Sloan.Hartley...
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  • Who is Gretchen Oyster? The discovery of a series of mysterious handmade postcards distracts Hartley from trouble at home. A poignant novel for fans of Rebecca Stead and Holly Goldberg Sloan.
    Hartley Staples, near-graduate of middle school, is grappling with the fact that his older brother has run away from home, when he finds a handmade postcard that fascinates him. And soon he spots another. Despite his losing interest in pretty much everything since Jackson ran away, Hartley finds himself searching for cards in his small town at every opportunity, ignoring other responsibilities, namely choosing a topic for his final project. Who is G.O. and why are they scattering cards about the town?


  • From the book My teacher Ms. Gorham once said that a story should have an exciting opening. Like this—
    We stood and watched as the entire laboratory went up in flames.
    Or maybe—
    If there was one thing I couldn't do, it was sit idly by while a bunch of giant insects tried to eat their way across the planet.
    Unfortunately, this is not that kind of opening.
    I went to the library.
    I went because it was Saturday and nobody was paying me the slightest attention. Not my mother or my father or my older sister or even my little brother for that matter. And certainly not my older brother, Jackson.
    That last sentence was sort of a trick. Because Jackson had run away from home. Nine months ago now. I had thought about not revealing this fact for a while, sort of keeping it up my sleeve to reveal in a more dramatic way—tada!—but I hate when stories do that. Nope, my brother ran away and we didn't have the slightest idea where he was.
    This should tell you a lot about why everyone was paying me no attention.
    Now, back to the library.
    Oh, wait. Before I tell you what happened in the library, I better introduce myself.
    A lot of stories have a main character with a really memorable name. Like Scout. Or Katniss Everdeen. Or Matilda Wormwood. Me, not so much. I'm Hartley. Hartley Joshua Staples. And no, my family doesn't own the chain of Staples office supply stores. We aren't rich. We're middle-class. Or as my dad likes to say, we're solidly middle-class. I'm not sure why he thinks that sounds better.
    You probably expect me to tell you all kinds of stuff about myself: what kind of music I stream, or problems I'm having at school, or maybe that I like some girl with long hair who sits in front of me in math class.
    Can we be mature, people?
    Now back to the library.
    The Whirton Public Library is the size of a mobile home. That's because it was a mobile home, once upon a time. The original library was in the basement of the town hall, but then the basement got flooded in what I like to call the Great Downpour of 2017, and all the books got ruined, and the town decided that maybe the basement wasn't the best place for it.
    The problem was that the town had no money to build a proper library out of actual bricks. This is where George Smythe comes in.
    You might think that, at this advanced stage of human evolution, we would have done away with the town eccentric. Not so. In fact, our town has more than its share. George Smythe is a retired mail carrier turned inventor. He believed that it was possible for anybody to build a rocket ship that was better and cheaper than anything the Americans, Russians, or Chinese could make. So George sold off everything he owned, including his house, in order to buy parts for his rocket ship. He moved into an old mobile home on a vacant lot.

About the Author-

  • CARY FAGAN's numerous kids' books include Mort Ziff Is Not Dead, the Kaspar Snit novels, the Wolfie & Fly chapter books and the picture books Little Blue Chair and the forthcoming What Are You Doing, Benny?, illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton. Mr. Zinger's Hat, another of his picture books, was awarded the Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award and the IODE Jean Throop Award. He also won the Vicky Metcalf Award for Literature for Young People for his body of work. In addition to his books for children, Cary is the author of six novels and three story collections for adults. He was born and raised in Toronto, where he continues to live with his family.


  • School Library Journal

    July 1, 2019

    Gr 5 Up-Ever since his brother Jackson ran away, Hartley Staples has a hard time getting interested in anything. His friend Zack wants nothing to do with him anymore and walks away whenever he tries to talk to him. His parents and siblings are barely holding it together. When Hartley finds a postcard that seems to speak directly to him and what he's going through, he becomes fascinated. He soon spots another and becomes obsessed with finding out the identity of whoever created them. Who is G.O., and why are they creating the postcards? Will he find a topic to do for his final project and pass middle school? Told through alternating points of view, readers will relate to the characters and their struggles to fit in and find peace with themselves. The plot is well- developed and easy to follow. Characters are realistic and engaging, and authentic postcard illustrations add color and depth to the story. VERDICT Recommended for library collections where realistic fiction centering issues of family, friendship, and self-discovery are popular.-Kira Moody, Salt Lake County Library Services

    Copyright 2019 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    July 15, 2019
    Hartley, floundering at home and school from a family trauma, finds a strange artistic postcard--and then another, and another. Ever since Hartley's older brother, Jackson, ran away, his parents are breaking down and his older sister's become insufferable. Only baby brother George, a sweet and funny kid, seems to be thriving. In his discombobulated state of mind, how can Hartley come up with a topic for the big (extremely undirected and undersupervised) middle school final project? But amid Hartley's eighth grade disorientation, he finds a quirky, collaged postcard. It bears a picture of fish and an offbeat, typewritten phrase, is numbered "1," and is signed "g.o." in the corner. Not long after, he finds a second postcard, equally quirky, numbered "2." Thus begins Hartley's quest to find all the postcards in the series as well as the artist, the mysterious g.o. Interwoven between some of Hartley's chapters are interludes from the point of view of one Gretchen Oyster, a blue-haired, skateboarding high school girl with an artistic project. Despite choppy prose characterized by a plethora of one-sentence paragraphs and a setting that ranges from humorously absurd to simply implausible, the spare text and compelling illustrations of the postcards combine to make an appealing whole. Hartley's white; Gretchen was adopted from China as a baby and is subject to racist and anti-adoption bullying. A charmingly eccentric tale of briefly intersecting lives making meaning from art. (Fiction. 11-13)

    COPYRIGHT(2019) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    October 28, 2019
    Since his older brother, Jackson, ran away from home nine months earlier,13-year-old Hartley Staples’s life has only gotten worse. Jackson’s behavior was always erratic, but Hartley cannot fathom why he left. In addition to his deeply sad parents and hostile twin sister, he’s coping with a best friend who has suddenly withdrawn. Preoccupied with his search for answers, Hartley struggles to focus on his year-end school project, and he suffers from stomachaches. Then he finds an artistic postcard stating, “i hate all kinds of flags except pirate flags,” signed “G.O.” When another, similar card appears, he becomes wrapped up in the mystery of who is creating the cards and why they are appearing around town. Fagan (Mort Ziff Is Not Dead) tells a moving story about the happiness found in small moments and art’s power to connect people. A few chapters are told from G.O.’s point of view, and full-page illustrations show the whimsical, philosophical postcards. Hartley is a chatty narrator who frequently addresses the reader, and his longing and grief feel authentic, as does his gradual lift in spirits. Ages 10–14.

  • Booklist

    September 1, 2019
    Grades 4-8 Fagan (Wolfie & Fly, 2017) has turned out an odd, yet sweet, little novel of self-discovery and family dynamics, frankly narrated by eighth-grader Hartley Staples. It's been several months since his older brother, Jackson, ran away without a trace, and the Staples family is still struggling to reclaim a sense of normalcy. As the end of the school year approaches, Hartley should be thinking of a topic for his final project, but his attention is instead focused on the curious postcards, signed G.O., he's finding around town. He's captivated by their collaged art and philosophical musings and gripped by a need to find out who is making them. Jackson's disappearance is a background ache throughout the narrative, periodically breaking through as a panic attack or therapy session; it also plays a role in Hartley's motivation to collect all the postcards. The mysterious G.O. narrates a few chapters, opening up the story to her own struggles, and color illustrations of her artistic creations add to the book's unique feel. Quietly thought-provoking and hopeful.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2019, American Library Association.)

  • CM Magazine "[A] funny, beautifully illustrated coming-of-age novel that will leave young readers thinking about where art begins and what it can do to change lives."

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