The Westing Game (and Books We Loved as Kids)

When I was in Elementary school, there was a program called R.I.F. which involved our teachers giving out free books to us students. Since I loved to read, “R.I.F. day” was an exciting time for me. Our teacher would put the books on a table and would always have some system to determine the order in which we chose our books. Since we usually didn’t know anything about the particular books being offered, often the books that were biggest and/or had the flashiest covers were picked first. Or, if we were really lucky there would be a Choose Your Own Adventure book, which was cool because your path through the plot of the book was determined by the choices you made. These books were usually long gone by the time I got to choose my book, as I never got to pick first. Lucky for me “never choose a book by it’s cover”

turned out to be true, and one day I chose The Westing Game as my R.I.F. book.


As I have since discovered, The Westing Game won the Newberry Medal in 1979. I’ll allow wikipedia to describe the plot:

The story unfolds as a whodunit, and is told in third-person omniscence. There is not one main character in the story, but it focuses in some aspects on Tabitha-Ruth “Turtle” Wexler. Eccentric millionaire and self-proclaimed patriot Samuel Westing has died, and the 16 heirs (all tenants or associates of Sunset Towers, an apartment building adjacent to Westing’s property), are called together for the reading of his will. There, it is announced that Westing was actually murdered, and the will warns that their fellow heirs may not be who they appear to be. They are paired up to search for the murderer, and each pair receives clues to find the person. The first pair to unmask the killer’s identity will receive Westing’s 200-million-dollar fortune. As the different pairs of people enter the “Westing Game,” they find clues that tell them about each others’ secrets. Turtle uses not just the obvious clues but the hidden ones to discover the true mystery behind the mystery, which she solves in an unexpected but satisfying fashion.

I loved this book for many reasons. For one, I cared for the characters, which is very important to me when I read a book or watch a movie. Who wants to read a book about a bunch of people you don’t care about? I also enjoyed the mystery aspects of the book and the challenge of trying to solve the mystery before the characters in the book.

Has anyone out there read The Westing Game? What were some of your favorite books as a child? While you think about that, I think I’m going to grab this book off the bookshelf in my old bedroom the next time I visit my parents.

7 thoughts on “The Westing Game (and Books We Loved as Kids)

  1. It’s funny – I remember reading The Westing Game, but I was disappointed by the ending. Perhaps I should give it another read. 🙂 What’s even more interesting is that I remember a lot of the plot points, which means that it must have been well-written.

    It’s hard to remember just all my favorite books as a kid, but among the tops would be The Secret Garden, The Phantom Tollbooth, anything by Dahl, and A Wrinkle in Time. I’m sure there are others that will come to me in the middle of the night, but those are indeed some favorites!

  2. I loved, loved, *loved* “The Westing Game” as a kid…the ending made me cry, and I don’t cry very easily. Also adored “The Phantom Tollbooth,” a novel by Clare Bell called “Ratha’s Creature,” “The Island of the Blue Dolphins” books, “The River” and others by Gary Paulsen, and countless more.

    Found your blog randomly via a tag feed and just had to comment, as “The Westing Game” isn’t a book I see talked about very often.

    Thanks for bringing back the memory!


  3. I loved your school’s idea for giving out free books. If only my school had done that! But I was lucky because my mum was my own personal R.I.F. programme. We lived in a remote area and every few weeks she would drive 1 hour to the town, change my library books and my brother’s, then go to the charity shops and buy us a pile of secondhand books. When I came home from school there would be a pile of books on the table. I felt as if I’d stepped into heaven.

    Funnily enough, a book that had a big impact on me just after I began secondary school, was a prescribed class book: Z for Zachariah by Robert C. O’Brien. I think I’m even going to write a blog post about that book. It inspired me so much. Other favourite books were A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett and Miss Happiness and Miss Flower by Rumer Godden.

    I haven’t read The Westing Game but I’m going to look for it in the library. My hair stood on end when I read the plot description.

  4. JLB, I started A Wrinkle in Time recently and would like to get back to it. I enjoyed what I read so far.

    Tess, thanks for the comment. I’m glad to find another “The Westing Game” fan.

    Helen, the R.I.F. program was definitely a good idea. I hope they still participate at my school. That is great you Mom bought you all those books and went to the library for you.

    I look forward to reading your post about your favorite book.

  5. Pingback: Happy Thanksgiving « The Struggling Writer

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